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Full text of "The well at the world's end, a tale"

HANDBOUND 
AT THE 



UNIVERSITY OF 



C-x ^ f 



T 




WELL AT THE WORLD'S END. 



( 



THE WELL AT THE 

WORLD'S END A TALE 

BY WILLIAM MORRIS 



VOLUME II 



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO. 

LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BOMBAY 

MDCCCCIII 



''./ 



Pi? 

So 

wv 



CHISWICK PRESS : CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO. 
TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON. 



CONTENTS. 



BOOK III. THE ROAD TO THE WELL AT THE 
WORLD'S END. 

PAGE 

CHAPTER I. An Adventure in the Wood under the Moun- 
tains 3 

II. Ralph rides the Wood under the Moun- 
tains Ji 

III. Ralph meeteth with another Adventure in 

the Wood under the Mountain ... 13 

IV. They ride the Wood under the Mountains . 2 1 
V. They come on the Sage of Swevenham . . 28 

VI. Those two are Learned Lore by the Sage of 

Swevenham 34 

VII. An Adventure by the Way 36 

VIII. They come to the Sea of Molten Rocks. . 41 

IX. They come forth from the Rock-Sea . . 45 

X. They come to the Gate of the Mountains . 50 

XI. They come to the Vale of Sweet Chestnuts 53 

XII. Winter amidst of the Mountains .... 56 

XIII. Of Ursula and the Bear 59 

XIV. Now come the Messengers of the Innocent 

Folk 65 

XV. They come to the Land of the Innocent Folk 68 

XVI. They come to the House of the Sorceress . 71 
XVII. They come through the Woodland to the 

Thirsty Desert 77 

XVIII. They come to the Dry Tree 83 

XIX. They come out of the Thirsty Desert . . 87 

XX. They come to the Ocean Sea 89 

XXI. Now they Drink of the Well at the World's 

End 91 

XXII. Now they have Drunk and are Glad. . . 95 

BOOK IV. THE ROAD HOME. 

CHAPTER I. Ralph and Ursula come back again through 

the Great Mountains 103 

II. They hear new Tidings of Utterbol . . . 105 
V 



PAGE 

CHAPTER III. They Winter with the Sage ; and thereafter 

come again to Vale Turris . . . . 108 

IV. A Feast in the Red Pavilion 114 

V. Bull telleth of his Winning of the Lordship 

ofUtterbol 117 

VI. They ride from Vale Turris. Redhead tells 

of Agatha 124 

VII. Of their riding the Waste, and of a Battle 

thereon 129 

VIII. Of Goldburg again, and the Queen thereof . 133 
IX. They come to Cheaping Knowe once more. 

Of the King thereof 137 

X. An Adventure on the Way to the Mountains 143 
XI. They come through the Mountains into the 

Plain .149 

XII. The Roads sunder again . 151 

XIII. They come to Whitwall again 153 

XIV. They ride away from Whitwall . . . . 163 
XV. A strange Meeting in the Wilderness . . 164 

XVI. They come to the Castle of Abundance once 

more . . . . 171 

XVII. They fall in with that Hermit. . . . . 179 
XVIII. A change of Days in the Burg of the Four 

Friths 191 

XIX. Ralph sees Hampton and the Scaur . . . 196 
XX. They come to the Gate of Higham by the 

Way . . . 212 

XXI. Talk between those two Brethren . . . 215 
XXII. An Old Acquaintance comes from the Down 

Country to see Ralph 223 

XXIII. They ride to Bear Castle 229 

XXIV. The Folkmote of the Shepherds .... 233 
XXV. They come to Wulstead. . 237 

XXVI. Ralph sees his Father and Mother again . 241 
XXVII. Ralph holds converse with Katherine his 

Gossip 248 

XXVIII. Dame Katherine tells of the Pair of Beads, 

and whence she had them . . . . 252 
XXIX. They go down- to Battle in Upmeads . . 258 
XXX. Ralph brings his Father and Mother to Up- 
meads 269 

XXXI. Ralph brings Ursula home to the High 

House 272 

XXXII. Yet a few words concerning Ralph of Up- 
meads 277 

vi 



BOOK III. THE ROAD TO THE WELL AT 
THE WORLD'S END. 



ii. 



THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END. 

BOOK III. THE ROAD TO THE WELL AT 
THE WORLD'S END. 

CHAPTER I. AN ADVENTURE IN THE 
WOOD UNDER THE MOUNTAINS. 

NOW was the night worn to the time appointed, 
for it was two hours after midnight, so he 
stepped out of his tent clad in all his war gear, 
and went straight to the doddered oak, and found Red- 
head there with but one horse, whereby Ralph knew 
that he held to his purpose of going his ways to 
Utterbol : so he took him by the shoulders and em- 
braced him, rough carle as he was, and Redhead 
kneeled to him one moment of time and then arose and 
went off into the night. But Ralph got a-horseback 
without delay and rode his ways warily across the high- 
way and into the wood, and there was none to hinder 
him. Though it was dark but for the starlight, there 
was a path, which the horse, and not Ralph, found, so 
that he made some way even before the first glimmer of 
dawn, all the more as the wood was not very thick after 
the first mile, and there were clearings here and there. 
So rode Ralph till the sun was at point to rise, and 
he was about the midst of one of those clearings or 
wood-lawns, on the further side whereof there was more 
thicket, as he deemed, than he had yet come to ; so 
he drew rein and looked about him for a minute. 
Even therewith he deemed he heard a sound less harsh 
than the cry of the jay in the beech-trees, and shriller 

3 



than the moaning of the morning breeze in the wood. 
So he falls to listening with both ears, and this time 
deems that he hears the voice of a woman : and there- 
with came into his mind that old and dear adventure 
of the Wood Perilous ; for he was dreamy with the 
past eagerness of his deeds, and the long and lonely 
night. But yet he doubted somewhat of the voice 
when it had passed his ears, so he shook his rein, for 
he thought it not good to tarry. 

Scarce then had his horse stepped out, ere there 
came a woman running out of the thicket before him 
and made toward him over the lawn. So he gat 
off his horse at once and went to meet her, leading his 
horse ; and as he drew nigh he could see that she was 
in a sorry plight ; she had gathered up her skirts to 
run the better, and her legs and feet were naked : the 
coif was gone from her head and her black hair streamed 
out behind her : her gown was rent about the shoulders 
and bosom, so that one sleeve hung tattered, as if by 
the handling of some one. 

So she ran up to him crying out : " Help, knight, 
help us ! " and sank down therewith at his feet panting 
and sobbing. He stooped down to her, and raised 
her up, and said in a kind voice: "What is amiss, 
fair damsel, that thou art in such a plight ; and what 
may I for thine avail ? Doth any pursue thee, that 
thou fleest thus ? " 

She stood sobbing awhile, and then took hold of his 
two hands and said : cc O fair lord, come now and help 
my lady ! for as for me, since I am with thee, I am safe." 

"Yea," said he, "Shall I get to horse at once ? " 
And therewith he made as if he would move away from 
her ; but she still held his hands, and seemed to think 
it good so to do, and she spake not for a while but 
gazed earnestly into his face. She was a fair woman, 
dark and sleek and lithe .... for in good sooth she 
was none other than Agatha, who is afore told of. 

4 



Now Ralph is somewhat abashed by her eagerness, 
and lets his eyes fall before hers ; and he cannot but 
note that despite the brambles and briars of the wood 
that she had run through, there were no scratches on 
her bare legs, and that her arm was unbruised where 
the sleeve had been rent off. 

At last she spake, but somewhat slowly, as if she 
were thinking of what she had to say : " O knight, 
by thy knightly oath I charge thee come to my lady 
and help and rescue her : she and I have been taken 
by evil men, and I fear that they will put her to shame, 
and torment her, ere they carry her off ; for they were 
about tying her to a tree when I escaped : for they 
heeded not me who am but the maid, when they had 
the mistress in their hands." " Yea," said he, " and 
who is thy mistress ? " Said the damsel : ct She is the 
Lady of the Burnt Rock ; and I fear me that these 
men are of the Riders of Utterbol ; and then will it 
go hard with her; for there is naught but hatred 
betwixt my lord her husband and the tyrant of Utter- 
bol." Said Ralph: "And how many were they?" 
" O but three, fair sir, but three," she said ; " and thou 
so fair and strong, like the war-god himself." 

Ralph laughed : <c Three to one is long odds," 
quoth he, " but I will come with thee when thou hast 
let go my hands so that I may mount my horse. But 
wilt thou not ride behind me, fair damsel ; so wearied 
and spent as thou wilt be by thy flight." 

She looked on him curiously, and laid a hand on his 
breast, and the hauberk rings tinkled beneath the 
broidered surcoat ; then she said : c< Nay, I had best 
go afoot before thee, so disarrayed as I am." 

Then she let him go, but followed him still with 
her eyes as he gat him into the saddle. She walked 
on beside his horse's head; and Ralph marvelled of 
her that for all her haste she had been in, she went 
somewhat leisurely, picking her way daintily so as 

5 



to tread the smooth, and keep her feet from the 
rough. 

Thus they went on, into the thicket and through it, 
and the damsel put the thorns and briars aside daintily 
as she stepped, and went slower still till they came to 
a pleasant place of oak-trees with greensward beneath 
them ; and then she stopped, and turning, faced 
Ralph, and spoke with another voice than heretofore, 
whereas there was naught rueful or whining therein, 
but somewhat both of glee and of mocking as it seemed. 
" Sir knight," she said, cc I have a word or two for thy 
ears ; and this is a pleasant place, and good for us to 
talk together, whereas it is neither too near to her, nor 
too far from her, so that I can easily find my way back 
to her. Now, lord, I pray thee light down and listen 
to me." And therewith she sat down on the grass 
by the bole of a great oak. 

" But thy lady," said Ralph, cc thy lady ? " " O sir/' 
she said ; <c My lady shall do well enough : she is 
nqt tied so fast, but she might loose herself if the 
need were pressing. Light down, dear lord, light 
down!" 

But Ralph sat still on his horse, and knit his brows, 
and said : C What is this, damsel ? hast thou been 
playing a play with me ? Where is thy lady whom 
thou wouldst have me deliver ? If this be but game 
and play, let me go my ways ; for time presses, and I 
have a weighty errand on hand." 

She rose up and came close to him, and laid a hand 
on his knee and looked wistfully into his face as she 
said : cc Nay then, I can tell thee all the tale as thou 
sittest in thy saddle ; for meseems short will be thy 
farewell when I have told it." And she sighed withal. 

Then Ralph was ashamed to gainsay her, and she 
now become gentle and sweet and enticing, and sad 
withal ; so he got off his horse and tied him to a tree, 
and went and stood by the damsel as she lay upon 

6 



the grass, and said : "I prithee tell thy tale and let me 
depart if there be naught for me to do." 

Then she said : cc This is the first word, that as to 
the Red Rock, I lied; and my lady is the Queen of 
Utterbol, and I am her thrall, and it is I who have 
drawn thee hither from the camp." 

The blood mounted to Ralph's brow for anger ; 
when he called to mind how he had been led hither 
and thither on other folk's errands ever since he left 
Upmeads. But he said naught, and Agatha looked on 
him timidly and said : " I say I am her thrall, and I 
did it to serve her and because she bade me." Said 
Ralph roughly : <c And Redhead, him whom I saved 
from torments and death ; dost thou know him ? 
didst thou know him ? " 

" Yea," she said, fc I had from him what he had 
learned concerning thee from the sergeants and others, 
and then I put words into his mouth." " Yea then," 
quoth Ralph, " then he also is a traitor ! " " Nay, 
nay," she said, " he is a true man and loveth thee, 
and whatever he hath said to thee he troweth himself. 
Moreover, I tell thee here and now that all that he told 
thee of the affairs of Utterbol, and thine outlook there, 
is true and overtrue." 

She sprang to her feet therewith, and stood before 
him and clasped her hands before him and said : cc I 
know that thou seekest the Well at the World's End 
and the deliverance of the damsel whom the Lord 
ravished from the wild man : now I swear it by thy 
mouth, that if thou go to Utterbol thou art undone 
and shalt come to the foulest pass there, and moreover 
that so going thou shalt bring the uttermost shame 
and torments on the damsel." 

Said Ralph : u Yea, but what is her case as now ? 
tell me." 

Quoth Agatha : " She is in no such evil case ; for 
my lady hateth her not as yet, or but little; and, 

7 



which is far more, my lord loveth her after his fashion, 
and withal as I deem feareth her ; for though she hath 
utterly gainsaid his desire, he hath scarce so much 
as threatened her. A thing unheard of. Had it been 
another woman she had by this time known all the 
bitterness that leadeth unto death at Utterbol." 
Ralph paled and he scowled on her, then he said : 
u And how knowest thou all the privity of the Lord 
of Utterbol? who telleth thee of all this?" She 
smiled and spake daintily : " Many folk tell me that 
which I would know ; and that is because whiles I 
conquer the tidings with my wits, and whiles buy it 
with my body. Anyhow what I tell thee is the very 
sooth concerning this damsel, and this it is : that 
whereas she is but in peril, she shall be in deadly 
peril, yea and that instant, if thou go to Utterbol, 
thou, who art her lover . . ." " Nay/' said Ralph 
angrily, a I am not her lover, I am but her well- 
wilier." u Well/' quoth Agatha looking down and 
knitting her brows, cc when thy good will towards 
her has become known, then shall she be thrown 
at once into the pit of my lord's cruelty. Yea, to 
speak sooth, even as it is, for thy sake (for her I heed 
naught) I would that the lord might find her gone 
when he cometh back to Utterbol." 

" Yea," said Ralph, reddening, " and is there any 
hope for her getting clear off? " " So I deem/' said 
Agatha. She was silent awhile and then spake in a 
low voice : u It is said that each man that seeth her 
loveth her ; yea, and will befriend her, even though 
she consent not to his desire. Maybe she hath fled 
from Utterbol." 

Ralph stood silent awhile with a troubled face ; and 
then he said : cc Yet thou hast not told me the why 
and wherefore of this play of thine, and the beguiling 
me into fleeing from the camp. Tell it me that I 
may pardon thee and pass on." 

8 



She said : <c By thine eyes I swear that this is sooth, 
and that there is naught else in it than this : My lady 
set her love, when first she set her eyes upon thee as 
forsooth all women must : as for me, I had not seen 
thee (though I told my lady that I had) till within 
this hour that we met in the wood." 

She sighed therewith, and with her right hand 
played with the rent raiment about her bosom. Then 
she said : " She deemed that if thou earnest a mere 
thrall to Utterbol, though she might command thy 
body, yet she would not gain thy love ; but that if 
perchance thou mightest see her in hard need, and 
evilly mishandled, and mightest deliver her, there 
might at least grow up pity in thee for her, and that 
love might come thereof, as oft hath happed afore- 
time ; for my lady is a fair woman. Therefore I, who 
am my lady's servant and thrall, and who, I bid thee 
remember, had not seen thee, took upon me to make 
this adventure, like to a minstrel's tale done in the 
flesh. Also I spake to my lord and told him thereof; 
and though he jeered at my lady to me, he was con- 
tent, because he would have her set her heart on thee 
utterly ; since he feared her jealousy, and would fain 
be delivered of it, lest she should play some turn to 
his newly beloved damsel and do her a mischief. 
Therefore did he set thee free (in words) meaning, 
when he had thee safe at Utterbol again (as he nowise 
doubted to have thee) to do as he would with thee, 
according as occasion might serve. For at heart he 
hateth thee, as I could see well. So a little before thou 
didst leave the camp, we, the Queen and I, went privily 
into a place of the woods but a little way hence. 
There I disarrayed both my lady and myself so far as 
was needful for the playing out the play which was 
to have seemed to thee a real adventure. Then came 
I to thee as if by chance hap, that I might bring thee 
to her; and if thou hadst come, we had a story 

9 



for thee, whereby thou mightest not for very knight- 
hood forbear to succour her and bring her whither 
she would, which in the long run had been Utterbol, 
but for the present time was to have been a certain 
strong-house appertaining to Utterbol, and nigh unto 
it. This is all the tale, and now if thou wilt, thou 
mayst pardon me ; or if thou wilt, thou mayst draw 
out thy sword and smite off my head. And forsooth 
I deem that were the better deed." 

She knelt down before him and put her palms toge- 
ther, and looked up at him beseechingly. His face 
darkened as he beheld her thus, but it cleared at last, 
and he said : " Damsel, thou wouldst turn out but a 
sorry maker, and thy play is naught. For seest thou 
not that I should have found out all the guile at Ut- 
terbol, and owed thy lady hatred rather than love 
thereafter." 

" Yea," she said, <c but my lady might have had 
enough of thy love by then, and would belike have 
let thee alone to fall into the hands of the Lord. Lo 
now ! I have delivered thee from this, so that thou art 
quit both of the Lord and the lady and me : and again 
I say that thou couldst scarce have missed, both thou 
and thy damsel, of a miserable ending at Utterbol." 

cc Yea," said Ralph, softly, and as if speaking to 
himself, " yet am I lonely and unholpen." Then he 
turned to Agatha and said : " The end of all this is 
that I pardon thee, and must depart forthwith; for 
when ye two come back to the camp, then presently 
will the hunt be up." 

She rose from her knees, and stood before him 
humbly and said : <c Nay, I shall requite thee thy 
pardon thus far, that I will fashion some tale for my 
lady which will keep us in the woods two days or three ; 
for we have provided victual for our adventure." 

Said Ralph : " I may at least thank thee for that, 
and will trust in thee to do so much." Quoth she : 

10 



" Then might I ask a reward of thee : since forsooth 
other reward awaiteth me at Utterbol." 

" Thou shalt have it," said Ralph. She said : 
" The reward is that thou kiss me ere we part." 

" It must needs be according to my word," said 
Ralph, tc yet I must tell thee that my kiss will bear 
but little love with it." 

She answered naught but laid her hands on his 
breast and put up her face to him, and he kissed her 
lips. Then she said : <c Knight, thou hast kissed a 
thrall and a guileful woman, yet one that shall smart 
for thee; therefore grudge not the kiss nor repent 
thee of thy kindness." 

" How shalt thou suffer ? " said he. She looked 
on him steadfastly a moment, and said : " Farewell ! 
may all good go with thee." Therewith she turned 
away and walked off slowly through the wood, and 
somewhat he pitied her, and sighed as he got into his 
saddle ; but he said to himself: "How might I help 
her ? Yet true it is that she may well be in an evil 
case : I may not help everyone." Then he shook his 
rein and rode his ways. 

CHAPTER II. RALPH RIDES THE WOOD 
UNDER THE MOUNTAINS. 

ALONG way now rode Ralph, and naught befell 
him but the fashion of the wood. And as he 
rode, the heart within him was lightened that 
he had escaped from all the confusion and the lying of 
those aliens, who knew him not, nor his kindred, and 
yet would all use him each for his own ends : and 
withal he was glad that he was riding all alone upon 
his quest, but free, unwounded, and well weaponed. 

The wood was not very thick whereas he rode, so 
that he could see the whereabouts of the sun, and rode 
east as far as he could judge it. Some little victual 

ii 



he had with him, and he found woodland fruit ripen- 
ing here and there, and eked out his bread therewith ; 
neither did water fail him, for he rode a good way up 
along a woodland stream that cleft the thicket, coming 
down as he deemed from the mountains, and thereby 
he made the more way : but at last he deemed that he 
must needs leave it, as it turned overmuch to the 
north. The light was failing when he came into a 
woodlawn amidst of which was a pool of water, and 
all that day he had had no adventure with beast or 
man, since he had sundered from Agatha. So he lay 
down and slept there with his naked sword by his side, 
and awoke not till the sun was high in the heavens 
next morning. Then he arose at once and went on 
his way after he had washed him, and eaten a morsel. 

After a little the thick of the wood gave out, and 
the land was no longer flat, as it had been, but was of 
dales and of hills, not blinded by trees. In this land 
he saw much deer, as hart and wild swine ; and he 
happened also on a bear, who was about a honey tree, 
and had taken much comb from the wild bees. On 
him Ralph drew his sword and drave him exceeding 
loth from his purchase, so that the knight dined off 
the bear's thieving. Another time he came across a 
bent where on the south side grew vines well fruited, 
and the grapes a-ripening; and he ate well thereof 
before he went on his way. 

Before nightfall he came on that same stream again, 
and it was now running straight from the east ; so he 
slept that night on the bank thereof. On the morrow 
he rode up along it a great way, till again it seemed to 
be coming overmuch from the north ; and then he 
left it, and made on east as near as he could guess it 
by the sun. 

Now he passed through thickets at whiles not very 
great, and betwixt them rode hilly land grassed mostly 
with long coarse grass, and with whin and thorn-trees 

12 



scattered about. Thence he saw again from time to 
time the huge wall of the mountains rising up into the 
air like a great black cloud that would swallow up the 
sky, and though the sight was terrible, yet it glad- 
dened him, since he knew that he was on the right 
way. So far he rode, going on the whole up-hill, till 
at last there was a great pine- wood before him, so that 
he could see no ending to it either north or south. 

It was now late in the afternoon, and Ralph pon- 
dered whether he should abide the night where he was 
and sleep the night there, or whether he should press 
on in hope of winning to some clear place before dark. 
So whereas he was in a place both rough and water- 
less, he deemed it better to go on, after he had rested 
his horse and let him bite the herbage a while. Then 
he rode his ways, and entered the wood and made the 
most of the way. 



CHAPTER III. RALPH MEETETH WITH 
ANOTHER ADVENTURE IN THE WOOD 
UNDER THE MOUNTAIN. 

SOON the wood grew very thick of pine-trees, 
though there was no undergrowth, so that when 
the sun sank it grew dark very speedily ; but he 
still rode on in the dusk, and there were but few 
wild things, and those mostly voiceless, in the wood, 
and it was without wind and very still. Now he 
thought he heard the sound of a horse going be- 
hind him or on one side, and he wondered whether 
the chace were up, and hastened what he might, till 
at last it grew black night, and he was constrained to 
abide. So he got off his horse, and leaned his back 
against a tree, and had the beast's reins over his arm ; 
and now he listened again carefully, and was quite 
sure that he could hear the footsteps of some hard- 
footed beast going nowise far from him. He laughed 

13 



inwardly, and said to himself: "If the chacer were to 
pass but three feet from my nose he should be none the 
wiser but if he hear me or my horse." And therewith he 
cast a lap of his cloak over the the horse's head, lest 
he should whinny if he became aware of the other 
beast ; and so there he stood abiding, and the noise 
grew greater till he could hear clearly the horse-hoofs 
drawing nigh, till they came very nigh, and then 
stopped. 

Then came a man's voice that said : cc Is there a 
man anigh in the wood ? " 

Ralph held his peace till he should know more ; 
and the voice spake again in a little while : " If there 
be a man anigh let him be sure that I will do him no 
hurt ; nay, I may do him good, for I have meat with 
me." Clear was the voice, and as sweet as the April 
blackbird sings. It spake again : " Naught answereth, 
yet meseemeth I know surely that a man is anigh ; 
and I am aweary of the waste, and long for fellowship." 

Ralph hearkened, and called to mind tales of way- 
farers entrapped by wood-wives and evil things ; but 
he thought : " At least this is no sending of the Lord 
of Utterbol, and, St. Nicholas to aid, I have little 
fear of wood- wights. Withal I shall be but a dastard 
if I answer not one man, for fear of I know not what." 
So he spake in a loud and cheerful voice : " Yea, there 
is a man anigh, and I desire thy fellowship, if we 
might but meet. But how shall we see each other in 
the blackness of the wild wood night ? " 

The other laughed, and the laugh sounded merry 
and sweet, and the voice said : " Hast thou no flint 
and fire-steel ? " <c No," said Ralph. " But I have," 
said the voice, cc and I am fain to see thee, for thy 
voice soundeth pleasant to me. Abide till I grope 
about for a stick or two." 

Ralph laughed in turn, as he heard the new-comer 
moving about ; then he heard the click of the steel on 



the flint, and saw the sparks showering down, so that 
a little piece of the wood grew green again to his eyes. 
Then a little clear flame sprang up, and therewith he 
saw the tree-stems clearly, and some twenty yards 
from him a horse, and a man stooping down over the 
fire, who sprang up now and cried out : " It is a 
knight-at-arms ! Come hither, fellow of the waste ; 
it is five days since I have spoken to a child of 
Adam ; so come nigh and speak to me, and as a reward 
of thy speech thou shalt have both meat and firelight." 

<c That will be well paid," said Ralph laughing, and 
he stepped forward leading his horse, for now the 
wood was light all about, as the fire waxed and burned 
clear; so that Ralph could see that the new-comer 
was clad in quaintly-fashioned armour after the fashion 
of that land, with a bright steel sallet on the head, and 
a long green surcoat over the body armour. Slender 
of make was the new-comer, not big nor tall of stature. 

Ralph went up to him hastily, and merrily put his 
hand on his shoulder, and kissed him, saying : <c The 
kiss of peace in the wilderness to thee ! " And he 
found him smooth-faced and sweet-breathed. 

But the new comer took his hand and led him to 
where the firelight was brightest and looked on him 
silently a while ; and Ralph gave back the look. The 
strange-wrought sallet hid but little of the new comer's 
face, and as Ralph looked thereon a sudden joy came 
into his heart, and he cried out : " O, but I have kissed 
thy face before ! O, my friend, my friend ! " 

Then spake the new-comer and said : " Yea, I am a 
woman, and I was thy friend for a little while at 
Bourton Abbas, and at the want-ways of the Wood 
Perilous." 

Then Ralph cast his arms about her and kissed her 
again ; but she withdrew her from him, and said : 
" Help me, my friend, that we may gather sticks to 
feed our fire, lest it die and the dark come again so 

'5 



that we see not each other's faces, and think that we 
have but met in a dream." 

Then she busied herself with gathering the kindling; 
but presently she looked up at him, and said: " Let 
us make the wood shine wide about, for this is a feast- 
fid night." 

So they gathered a heap of wood and made the fire 
great ; and then Ralph did off his helm and hauberk 
and the damsel did the like, so that he could see the 
shapeliness of her uncovered head. Then they sat 
down before the fire, and the damsel drew meat and 
drink from her saddle-bags, and gave thereof to Ralph, 
who took it of her and her hand withal, and smiled 
on her and said : c< Shall we be friends together as we 
were at Bourton Abbas and the want- ways of the 
Wood Perilous ? " She shook her head and said : " If 
it might be ! but it may not be. Not many days 
have worn since then ; but they have brought about 
changed days." He looked on her wistfully and said : 
<f But thou wert dear to me then." 

" Yea," she said, " and thou to me ; but other things 
have befallen, and there is change betwixt." 

cc Nay, what change ?" said Ralph. 

Even by the firelight he saw that she reddened as 
she answered : " I was a free woman then ; now am 
I but a runaway thrall." Then Ralph laughed merrily, 
and said, " Then are we brought the nigher together, 
for I also am a runaway thrall." 

She smiled and looked down : then she said : " Wilt 
thou tell me how that befell ? " 

" Yea," said he, " but I will ask thee first a question 
or two." She nodded a yeasay, and looked on him 
soberly, as a child waiting to say its task. 

Said Ralph : " When we parted at the want-ways , 
of the Wood Perilous thou saidst that thou wert 
minded for the Well at the World's End, and to try 
it for life or death. But thou hadst not then the 

16 



necklace, which now I see thee bear, and which, seest 
thou ! is like to that about my neck. Wilt thou tell 
me whence thou hadst it ? " 

She said : tc Yea ; it was given unto me by a lady, 
mighty as I deem, and certainly most lovely, who 
delivered me from an evil plight, and a peril past 
words, but whereof I will tell thee afterwards. And 
she it was who told me of the way to the Well at the 
World's End, and many matters concerning them that 
seek it, whereof thou shalt wot soon." 

Said Ralph : " As to how thou wert made a thrall 
thou needest not to tell me ; for I have learned that of 
those that had to do with taking thee to Utterbol. 
But tell me ; here are met we two in the pathless 
wilds, as if it were on the deep sea, and we two seeking 
the same thing. Didst thou deem that we should 
meet, or that I should seek thee ? " 

Now was the fire burning somewhat low, but he 
saw that she looked on him steadily ; yet withal her 
sweet voice trembled a little as she answered : " Kind 
friend, I had a hope that thou wert seeking me and 
wouldst find me : for indeed that fairest of women 
who gave me the beads spake to me of thee, and said 
that thou also wouldst turn thee to the quest of the 
Well at the World's End ; and already had I deemed 
thine eyes lucky as well as lovely. But tell me, my 
friend, what has befallen that lady that she is not with 
thee ? For in such wise she spake of thee, that I 
deemed that naught would sunder you save death." 

" It is death that hath sundered us," said Ralph. 

Then she hung her head, and sat silent a while, 
neither did he speak till she had risen up and cast 
more wood upon the fire ; and she stood before it with 
her back towards him. Then he spake to her in a 
cheerful voice and said : " Belike we shall be long 
together: tell me thy name; is it not Dorothy?" 
She turned about to him with a smiling face, and said : 

n. 17 c 



" Nay lord, nay : did I not tell thee my name before ? 
They that held me at the font bid the priest call me 
Ursula, after the Friend of Maidens. But what is 
thy name ? " 

<C I am Ralph of Upmeads," quoth he; and sat 
a while silent, pondering his dream and how it had 
betrayed him as to her name, when it had told him 
much that he yet deemed true. 

She came and sat down by him again, and said to 
him: "Thy questions I have answered; but thou 
hast not yet told me the tale of thy captivity." Her 
voice sounded exceeding sweet to him, and he looked 
on her face and spake as kindly as he knew how, and 
said : cc A short tale it is to-night at least : I came from 
Whitwall with a Company of Chapmen, and it was 
thee I was seeking and the Well at the World's End. 
All went well with me, till I came to Goldburg, and 
there I was betrayed by a felon, who had promised to 
lead me safe to Utterness, and tell me concerning the 
way unto the Well. But he sold me to the Lord of 
Utterbol, who would lead me to his house ; which 
irked me not, at first, because I looked to find thee 
there. Thereafter, if for shame I may tell the tale, 
his lady and wife cast her love upon me, and I was 
entangled in the nets of guile : yet since I was told, 
and believed that it would be ill both for thee and for 
me if I met thee at Utterbol, I took occasion to flee 
away, I will tell thee how another while." 

She had turned pale as she heard him, and now she 
said : " It is indeed God's mercy that thou earnest not 
to Utterbol nor foundest me there, for then had both 
we been undone amidst the lusts of those two ; or that 
thou earnest not there to find me fled, else hadst thou 
been undone. My heart is sick to think of it, even 
as I sit by thy side." 

Said Ralph : (e Thy last word maketh me afraid and 
ashamed to ask thee a thing. But tell me first, is that 



Lord of Utterbol as evil as men's fear would make 
him ? for no man is feared so much unless he is deemed 
evil." 

She was silent a while, and then she said : " He is so 
evil that it might be deemed that he has been brought 
up out of hell." 

Then Ralph looked sore troubled, and he said : 
" Dear friend, this is the thing hard for me to say. 
In what wise did they use thee at Utterbol ? Did 
they deal with thee shamefully ? " She answered 
him quietly : " Nay," she said, " fear not ! no shame 
befell me, save that I was a thrall and not free to 
depart. Forsooth," she said, smiling, " I fled away 
timely before the tormentors should be ready. For- 
sooth it is an evil house and a mere piece of hell. 
But now we are out of it and free in the wildwood, 
so let us forget it ; for indeed it is a grief to remem- 
ber it. And now once more let us mend the fire, for 
thy face is growing dim to me, and that misliketh me. 
Afterwards before we lie down to sleep we will talk 
a little of the way, whitherward we shall turn our faces 
to-morrow." 

So they cast on more wood, and pineapples, and 
sweet it was to Ralph to see her face come clear again 
from out the mirk of the wood. Then they sat down 
again together and she said : tc We two are seeking 
the Well at the World's End ; now which of us knows 
more of the way ? who is to lead, and who to follow ? " 
Said Ralph : (< If thou know no more than I, it is little 
that thou knowest. Sooth it is that for many days 
past I have sought thee that thou mightest lead me." 

She laughed sweetly, and said : cc Yea, knight, and 
was it for that cause that thou soughtest me, and not 
for my deliverance ? " He said soberly : " Yet in very 
deed I set myself to deliver thee." " Yea," she said, 
"then since I am delivered, I must needs deem of it 
as if it were through thy deed. And as I suppose 



thou lookest for a reward therefor, so thy reward 
shall be, that I will lead thee to the Well at the 
World's End. Is it enough ? " " Nay/' said Ralph. 
They held their peace a minute, then she said: 
<c Maybe when we have drunk of that Water and are 
coming back, it will be for thee to lead. For true it 
is that I shall scarce know whither to wend ; since 
amidst of my dreaming of the Well, and of ... 
other matters, my home that was is gone like a dream." 

He looked at her, but scarce as if he were heeding 
all her words. Then he spoke : c< Yea, thou shalt lead 
me. I have been led by one or another ever since I 
have left Upmeads." Now she looked on him some- 
what ruefully, and said : u Thou wert not hearkening 
e'en now ; so I say it again, that the time shall come 
when thou shalt lead me." 

In Ralph's mind had sprung up again that journey 
from the Water of the Oak-tree ; so he strove with 
himself to put the thought from him, and sighed and 
said: "Dost thou verily know much of the way?" 
She nodded yeasay. a Knowest thou of the Rock of 
the Fighting Man ? " " Yea," she said. " And of 
the Sage that dwelleth in this same wood ? " " Most 
surely," she said, " and to-morrow evening or the 
morrow after we shall find him; for I have been taught 
the way to his dwelling; and I wot that he is now 
called the Sage of Swevenham. Yet I must tell thee 
that there is some peril in seeking to him ; whereas 
his dwelling is known of the Utterbol riders, who may 
follow us thither. And yet again I deem that he will 
find some remedy thereto." 

Said Ralph : " Whence didst thou learn all this, my 
friend ? " And his face grew troubled again ; but she 
said simply : " She taught it to me who spake to me in 
the wood by Hampton under Scaur." 

She made as if she noted not the trouble in his face, 
but said : " Put thy trust in this, that here and with 

20 



me thou art even now nigher to the Well at the 
World's End than any other creature on the earth. 
Yea, even if the Sage of Swevenham be dead or gone 
hence, yet have I tokens to find the Rock of the Fight- 
ing Man, and the way through the mountains, though 
I say not but that he may make it all clearer. But now I 
see thee drooping with the grief of days bygone; and 
I deem also that thou art weary with the toil of the way. 
So I rede thee lie down here in the wilderness and sleep, 
and forget grief till to-morrow is a new day." 

cc Would it were come," said he, cc that I might see 
thy face the clearer ; yet I am indeed weary." 

So he went and fetched his saddle and lay down 
with his head thereon ; and was presently asleep. But 
she, who had again cast wood on the fire, sat by his 
head watching him with a drawn sword beside her, till 
the dawn of the woodland began to glimmer through 
the trees : then she also laid herself down and slept. 

CHAPTER IV. THEY RIDE THE WOOD 
UNDER THE MOUNTAINS. 

WHEN Ralph woke on the morrow it was 
broad day as far as the trees would have it 
so. He rose at once, and looked about for 
his fellow, but saw her not, and for some moments of 
time he thought he had but dreamed of her ; but he 
saw that the fire had been quickened from its embers, 
and close by lay the hauberk and strange-fashioned 
helm, and the sword of the damsel, and presently he 
saw her coming through the trees barefoot, with the 
green-sleeved silken surcoat hanging below the knees 
and her hair floating loose about her. She stepped 
lightly up to Ralph with a cheerful smiling countenance 
and a ruddy colour in her cheeks, but her eyes moist 
as if she could scarce keep back the tears for joy of the 
morning's meeting. He thought her fairer than erst, 

21 



and made as if he would put his arms about her, but 
she held a little aloof from him, blushing yet more. 
Then she said in her sweet clear voice : t( Hail fellow- 
farer ! now begins the day's work. I have been down 
yonder, and have found a bright woodland pool, to 
\tash the night off me, and if thou wilt do in likewise 
and come back to me, I will dight our breakfast 
meantime, and will we speedily to the road." He did 
as she bade him, thinking of her all the while till he 
came back to her fresh and gay. Then he looked to 
their horses and gave them fodder gathered from the 
pool-side, and so turned to Ursula and found her with 
the meat ready dight ; so they ate and were glad. 

When they had broken their fast Ralph went to 
saddle the horses, and coming back found Ursula bind- 
ing up her long hair, and she smiled on him and said : 
" Now we are for the road I must be an armed knight 
again : forsooth I unbound my hair e'en now and let 
my surcoat hang loose about me in token that thou 
wottest my secret. Soothly, my friend, it irks me that 
now we have met after a long while, I must needs 
be clad thus graceless. But need drave me to it, 
and withal the occasion that was given to me to 
steal this gay armour from a lad at Utterbol, the 
nephew of the lord ; who like his erne was half my 
lover, half my tyrant. Of all which I will tell thee here- 
after, and what wise I must needs steer betwixt stripes 
and kisses these last days. But now let us arm and to 
horse. Yet first lo you, here are some tools that in 
thine hands shall keep us from sheer famine : as for me 
I am no archer ; and forsooth no man-at-arms save in 
seeming." 

Therewith she showed him a short Turk bow and 
a quiver of arrows, which he took well pleased. So 
then they armed each the other, and as she handled 
Ralph's wargear she said : " How well- wrought and 
trusty is this hauberk of thine, my friend ; my coat 

22 



is but a toy to it, with its gold and silver rings and ita 
gemmed collar : and thy plates be thick and wide and 
well-wrought, whereas mine are little more than adorn- 
ments to my arms and legs." 

He looked on her lovingly and loved her shapely 
hands amidst the dark grey mail, and said : " That is 
well, dear friend, for since my breast is a shield for 
thee it behoves it to be well covered." She looked at 
him, and her lips trembled, and she put out her hand 
as if to touch his cheek, but drew it back again and 
said : "Come now, let us to horse, dear fellow in arms." 

So they mounted and went their ways through a 
close pine-wood, where the ground was covered with 
the pine-tree needles, and all was still and windless. 
So as they rode said Ursula. : " I seek tokens of the 
way to the Sage of Swevenham. Hast thou seen a 
water yesterday ? " " Yea," said Ralph, " I rode far 
along it, but left it because I deemed that it turned 
north overmuch." " Thou wert right," she said, 
" besides that thy turning from it hath brought us 
together; for it would have brought thee to Utter bol at 
last. But now have we to hit upon another that runneth 
straight down from the hills : not the Great Moun- 
tains, but the high ground whereon is the Sage's 
dwelling. I know not whether the ride be long or 
short ; but the stream is to lead us." 

On they rode through the wood, wherein was little 
change for hours; and as they rested Ursula gave 
forth a deep breath, as one who has cast off a load of 
care. And Ralph said : " Why sighest thou, fellow- 
farer ? " " O," she said, " it is for pleasure, and a 
thought that I had : for a while ago I was a thrall, 
living amongst fears that sickened the heart; and 
then a little while I was a lonely wanderer, and now 
. . . Therefore I was thinking that if ever I come 
back to mine own land and my home, the scent of a 
pine-wood shall make me happy." 



Ralph looked on her eagerly, but said naught for 
a while ; but at last he spoke : " Tell me, friend," 
said he, " if we be met by strong- thieves on the way, 
what shall we do then ? " 

" It is not like to befall," she said, " for men fear 
the wood, therefore is there little prey for thieves 
therein : but if we chance on them, the token of 
Utterbol on mine armour shall make them meek 
enough/' Then she fell silent a while, and spoke 
again : " True it is that we may be followed by the 
Utterbol riders ; for though they also fear the wood, 
they fear it not so much as they fear their Lord. 
Howbeit, we be well ahead, and it is little like that 
we shall be overtaken before we have met the Sage ; 
and then belike he shall provide." 

" Yea," said Ralph, " but what if the chase come 
up with us : shall we suffer us to be taken alive ? " 
She looked on him solemnly, laid her hand on the 
beads about her neck, and answered : " By this token 
we must live as long as we may, whatsoever may 
befall ; for at the worst may some road of escape be 
opened to us. Yet O, how far easier it were to die 
than to be led back to Utterbol ! " 

A while they rode in silence, both of them : but at 
last spake Ralph, but slowly and in a dull and stern 
voice : " Maybe it were good that thou told me 
somewhat of the horrors and evil days of Utterbol?" 
" Maybe," she said, " but I will not tell thee of them. 
Forsooth there are some things which a man may not 
easily tell to a man, be he never so much his friend as 
thou art to me. But bethink thee " (and she smiled 
somewhat) " that this gear belieth me, and that I am 
but a woman; and some things there be which a 
woman may not tell to a man, nay, not even when 
he hath held her long in his arms." And therewith 
she flushed exceedingly. But he said in a kind voice : 
c I am sorry that I asked thee, and will ask thee no more 



thereof." She smiled on him friendly, and they spake 
of other matters as they rode on. 

But after a while Ralph said : cc If it were no mis- 
ease to thee to tell me how thou didst fall into the 
hands of the men of Utterbol, I were fain to hear 
the tale." 

She laughed outright, and said : " Why wilt thou 
be for ever harping on the time of my captivity, 
friend ? And thou who knowest the story somewhat 
already ? Howbeit, I may tell thee thereof without 
heart-burning, though it be a felon tale.'* 

He said, somewhat shame-facedly : <f Take it not 
ill that I am fain to hear of thee and thy life-days, 
since we are become fellow-farers." 

tc Well," she said, " this befell outside Utterbol, so 
I will tell thee. 

" After I had stood in the thrall-market at Cheaping 
Knowe, and not been sold, the wild man led me away 
toward the mountains that are above Goldburg ; and 
as we drew near to them on a day, he said to me that 
he was glad to the heart-root that none had cheapened 
me at the said market ; and when I asked him where- 
fore, he fell a weeping as he rode beside me, and said : 
c Yet would God that I had never taken thee/ I 
asked what ailed him, though indeed I deemed that I 
knew. He said : c This aileth me, that though thou 
art not of the blood wherein I am bound to wed, I 
love thee sorely, and would have thee to wife ; and 
now I deem that thou wilt not love me again/ I 
said that he guessed aright, but that if he would do 
friendly with me, I would be no less than a friend to 
him. c That availeth little/ quoth he; c I would have 
thee be mine of thine own will/ I said that might 
not be, that I could love but one man alone. c Is he 
alive ? ' said he. c Goodsooth, I hope so/ said 1, 4 but 
if he be dead, then is desire of men dead within me/ 

<c So we spake, and he was downcast and heavy of 

25 



mood ; but thenceforward was he no worse to me 
than a brother. And he proffered it to lead me 
back, if I would, and put me safely on the way to 
Whitwall ; but, as thou wottest, I had need to go 
forward, and no need to go back. 

" Thus we entered into the mountains of Goldburg ; 
but one morning, when he arose, he was heavier of 
mood than his wont, and was restless withal, and could 
be steadfast neither in staying nor going, nor aught 
else. So I asked what ailed him, and he said : c My 
end draweth nigh ; I have seen my fetch, and am fey. 
My grave abideth me in these mountains/ c Thou 
hast been dreaming ugly dreams/ said I, c such things 
are of no import/ And I spoke lightly, and strove 
to comfort him. He changed not his mood for all 
that ; but said : c This is ill for thee also ; for thou 
wilt be worser without me than with me in these lands.' 
Even so I deemed, and withal I was sorry for him, 
for though he were uncouth and ungainly, he was no 
ill man. So against my will I tumbled into the same- 
like mood as his, and we both fared along drearily. 
But about sunset, as we came round a corner of the 
cliffs of those mountains, or ever we were ware we 
happed upon a half-score of weaponed men, who were 
dighting a camp under a big rock thereby : but four 
there were with them who were still a-horseback ; so 
that when Bull Nosy (for that was his name) strove 
to flee away with me, it was of no avail ; for the said 
horsemen took us, and brought us before an evil- 
looking man, who, to speak shortly, was he whom 
thou hast seen, to wit, the Lord of Utterbol : he took 
no heed of Bull Nosy, but looked on me closely, and 
handled me as a man doth with a horse at a cheaping, 
so that I went nigh to smiting him, whereas I had a 
knife in my bosom, but the chaplet refrained me. 
To make a short tale of it, he bade Bull sell me to 
him, which Bull utterly naysaid, standing stiff and 

26 



stark before the Lord, and scowling on him. But the 
Lord laughed in his face and said : c So be it, for I 
will take her without a price, and thank thee for 
sparing my gold.' Then said Bull : ' If thou take 
her as a thrall, thou wert best take me also ; else shall 
I follow thee as a free man and slay thee when I may. 
Many are the days of the year, and on some one of 
them will betide the occasion for the knife/ 

cc Thereat the Lord waxed very pale, and spake not, 
but looked at that man of his who stood by Bull with 
a great sword in his fist, and lifted up his hand twice,, 
and let it fall twice, whereat that man stepped back 
one pace, and swung his sword, and smote Bull, and 
clave his skull. 

"Thenthe colour came into the Lord's face again, and 
he said : c Now, vassals, let us dine and be merry, for 
at least we have found something in the mountains. 1 
So they fell to and ate and drank, and victual was given 
to me also, but I had no will to eat, for my soul was 
sick and my heart was heavy, foreboding the utter- 
most evil. Withal I was sorry for Bull Nosy, for he 
was no ill man and had become my friend. 

" So they abode there that night, leaving Bull lying 
like a dog unburied in the wilderness ; and on the 
morrow they took the road to Utterbol, and went 
swiftly, having no baggage, and staying but for victual, 
and for rest every night. The Lord had me brought 
to him on that first evening of our journey, and 
he saw me privily and spake to me, bidding me do 
shameful things, and I would not; wherefore he 
threatened me grievously ; and, I being alone with 
him, bade him beware lest I should slay him or myself. 
Thereat he turned pale, as he had done before Bull 
Nosy, yet sent for none to slay me, but only bade me 
back to my keepers. And so I came to Utterbol un- 
scathed." 

"And at Utterbol," said Ralph, "what befell thee 
27 



there ? " Ursula smiled on him, and held up her 
finger ; yet she answered : c< Utterbol is a very great 
house in a fair land, and there are sundry roofs and 
many fair chambers. There was I brought to a 
goodly chamber amidst a garden ; and women servants 
were given me who led me to the bath and clad me 
in dainty raiment, and gave me to eat and to drink, 
and all that I needed. That is all my tale for this 
time." 



CHAPTER V. THEY COME ON THE SAGE 
OF SWEVENHAM. 

NIGHT was at hand before they came to the 
stream that they sought. They found it 
cleaving the pine-wood, which held on till the 
very bank of it, and was thick again on the further 
side in a few yards* space. The stream was high- 
banked and ran deep and strong. Said Ursula as they 
came up to it : " We may not cross it, but it matters 
not ; and it is to-morrow that we must ride up along 
it." , 

So they abode there, and made a fire by the water- 
side, and watched there, turn and turn about, till it 
was broad day. Naught befell to tell of, save that 
twice in the night Ralph deemed that he heard a lion 
roar. 

They got to horse speedily when they were both 
awake, and rode up the stream, and began to go up 
hill, and by noon were come into a rough and shaggy 
upland, whence from time to time they could see the 
huge wall of the mountains, which yet seemed to Ralph 
scarce nigher, if at all, than when he had beheld it 
ere he had come to Vale Turris. The way was rough 
day-long, and now and again they found it hard to 
keep the stream in sight, as especially when it cleft a 

28 



hill, and ran between sheer cliffs with no low shore on 
either side. 

They made way but slowly, so that at last Ralph 
lost patience somewhat, and said that he had but little 
hope of falling in with the Sage that day or any day. 
But Ursula was of good cheer, and mocked him 
merrily but sweetly, till his heart was lightened again. 
Withal she bade him seek some venison, since they 
were drawing out the time, and she knew not how 
long it would be ere they came to the Sage's dwelling. 
Therefore he betook him to the Turk bow, and shot 
a leash of heath-fowl, and they supped on the meat 
merrily in the wilderness. 

But if they were merry, they were soon weary ; for 
they journeyed on after sunset that night, since the 
moon was up, and there was no thick wood to turn 
dusk into dark for them. Their resting-place was a 
smooth piece of greensward betwixt the water and a 
half circle of steep bent that well nigh locked it about. 

There then they abode, and in the stillness of the 
night heard a thundering sound coming down the 
wind to them, which they deemed was the roaring of 
distant waters ; and when they went to the lip of the 
river they saw flocks of foam floating by, wherefore 
they thought themselves to be near some great moun- 
tain-neck whereover the water was falling from some 
high place. But with no to-do they lay down upon 
the greensward this second night of their fellowship, 
and waked later than on the day before ; for so weary 
had they been, that they had kept but ill watch in the 
dark night, and none at all after dawn began to 
glimmer. 

Now Ralph sat up and saw Ursula still sleeping ; 
then he rose to his feet and looked about him, and 
saw their two horses cropping the grass under the 
bent, and beside them a man, tall and white bearded, 
leaning on his staff. Ralph caught up his sword and 

29 



went toward the man, and the sun gleamed from the 
blade just as the hoary-one turned to him ; he lifted 
up his staff as if in greeting to Ralph, and came to- 
ward him, and even therewith Ursula awoke and 
arose, and saw the greybeard at once ; and she cried 
out : cc Take heed to thy sword, fellow-farer, for, 
praised be the saints, this is the Sage of Swevenham ! " 

So they stood there together till the Sage came up to 
them and kissed them both, and said : <c I am glad 
that ye are come at last ; for I looked for you no later 
than this. So now mount your horses and come with 
me straightway; because life is short to them who 
have not yet drunk of the Well at the World's End. 
Moreover if ye chance to come on the riders of Utter- 
bol, it shall go hard with you unless I be at hand." 

Ralph saw of him that though he was an old hoar 
man to look on, yet he was strong and sturdy, tall, 
and of goodly presence, with ruddy cheeks, and red 
lips and bright eyes, and that the skin of his face and 
hands was nowise wrinkled : but about his neck was 
a pair of beads like unto his own gossip's gift. 

So now they mounted at once, and with no more 
words he led them about the bent, and they came in a 
little while into the wood again, but this time it was of 
beech, with here and there an open place sprinkled 
about with hollies and thorns ; and they rode down the 
wide slope of a long hill, and up again on the other 
side. 

Thus they went for an hour, and the elder spake 
not again, though it might have been deemed by his 
eyes that he was eager and fain. They also held 
their peace ; for the hope and fear of their hearts kept 
them from words. 

They came to the hill-top, and found a plain land, 
though the close wood still held on a while ; but soon 
they rode into a clearing of some twelve acres, where 
were fenced crofts with goats therein, and three garths 

3 ^ 



of tillage, wherein the wheat-shocks were yet standing, 
and there were coleworts and other pot-herbs also. 
But at the further end, whereas the wood closed in 
again, was a little house builded of timber, strong and 
goodly, and thatched with wheat-straw ; and beside it 
was a bubbling spring which ran in a brook athwart 
the said clearing ; over the house-door was a carven 
rood, and a bow and short spear were leaned against 
the wall of the porch. 

Ralph looked at all closely, and wondered whether 
this were perchance the cot wherein the Lady of 
Abundance had dwelt with the evil witch. But the 
elder looked on him, and said: "I know thy thought, 
and it is not so ; that house is far away hence ; yet 
shalt thou come thereto. Now, children, welcome to 
the house of him who hath found what ye seek, but 
hath put aside the gifts which ye shall gain ; and 
who belike shall remember what ye shall forget." 

Therewith he brought them into the house, and 
into a chamber, the plenishing whereof was both 
scanty and rude. There he bade them sit, and 
brought them victual, to wit, cheese and goats' milk 
and bread, and they fell to speech concerning the 
woodland ways, and the seasons, and other unweighty 
matters. But as for the old man he spoke but few 
words, and as one unused to speech, albeit he was 
courteous and debonair. But when they had eaten 
and drunk he spake to them and said : 

" Ye have sought to me because ye would find the 
Well at the World's End, and would have lore of me 
concerning the road thereto ; but before I tell you what 
ye would, let me know what ye know thereof already." 

Quoth Ralph: " For me, little enough I know, save 
that I must come to the Rock of the Fighting Man, 
and that thou knowest the way thither." 

cc And thou, damsel," quoth the long- hoary, " what 
knowest thou ? Must I tell thee of the way through 

31 



the mountains and the Wall of the World, and the 
Winter Valley, and the Folk Innocent, and the Cot on 
the Way, and the Forest of Strange Things and the 
Dry Tree?" 

c< Nay," she said, " of all this I wot somewhat, but 
it may be not enough.'* 

Said the Sage : <c Even so it was with me, when a 
many years ago I dwelt nigh to Swevenham, and folk 
sought to me for lore, and I told them what I knew ; 
but maybe it was not enough, for they never came 
back ; but died belike or ever they had seen the Well. 
And then I myself, when I was gotten very old, fared 
thither a-seeking it, and I found it ; for I was one of 
those who bore the chaplet of the seekers. And now 
I know all, and can teach all. But tell me, damsel, 
whence hadst thou this lore?" 

Said Ursula : " I had it of a very fair woman who, 
as it seemeth, was Lady and Queen of the Champions 
of Hampton under the Scaur, not far from mine own 
land." 

" Yea," quoth the Sage, <c and what hath befallen 
her ? . . . Nay, nay," said he, " I need not ask ; for 
I can see by your faces that she is dead. Therefore hath 
she been slain, or otherwise she had not been dead. 
So I ask you if ye were her friends ? " 

Quoth Ursula ; c< Surely she was my friend, since 
she befriended me ; and this man I deem was altoge- 
ther her friend." 

Ralph hung his head, and the Sage gazed on him, 
but said naught. Then he took a hand of each of 
them in his hands, and held them a while silently, 
and Ralph was still downcast and sad, but Ursula 
looked on him fondly. 

Then spake the Sage : cc So it is, Knight, that now 
I seem to understand what manner of man thou art, 
and I know what is between you two ; whereof I will 
say naught, but will let the tree grow according to its 






seed. Moreover, I wot now that my friend of past 
years would have me make you both wise in the lore 
of the Well at the World's End ; and when I have 
done this, I can do no more, but let your good hap 
prevail if so it may. Abide a little, therefore/' 

Then he went unto an ark, and took thence a book 
wrapped in a piece of precious web of silk and gold, 
and bound in cuir-bouilly wrought in strange devices. 
Then said he : ce This book was mine heritage at 
Swevenham or ever I became wise, and it came from 
my father's grandsire : and my father bade me 
look on it as the dearest of possessions ; but I heeded 
it naught till my youth had waned, and my manhood 
was full of weariness and grief. Then I turned to it, 
and read in it, and became wise, and the folk sought 
to me, and afterwards that befell which was fore- 
doomed. Now herein amongst other matters is writ- 
ten of that which ye desire to know, and 1 will read 
the same to you and expound it. Yet were it not well 
to read in this book under a roof, nay, though it be 
as humble and innocent as this. Moreover, it is not 
meet that ye should hearken to this wisdom of old 
times clad as ye are ; thou, knight, in the raiment of 
the manslayer, with the rod of wrath hanging at thy 
side ; and thou, maiden, attired in the garments of the 
tyrant, which were won of him by lying and guile." 

Then he went to another ark, and took from it two 
bundles, which he gave, the one to Ralph, the other 
to Ursula, and said : ct Thou, maiden, go thou into 
the inner chamber here and doff thy worldly raiment, 
and don that which thou wilt find wrapped in this 
cloth ; and thou, knight, take this other and get thee 
into the thicket which is behind the house, and there 
do the like, and abide there till we come to thee." 

So Ralph took the bundle, and came out into the 
thicket and unarmed him, and did on the raiment 
which he found in the cloth, which was but a long 

". 33 D 



gown ofwhitelinen,much like to an alb,broidered about 
the wrists and the hems and collar with apparels of gold 
and silk, girt with a red silk girdle. There he abode 
a little, wondering at all these things and all that had 
befallen him since he had left Up meads. 

Anon the two others came to him, and Ursula was 
clad in the same-like raiment and the elder had the 
book in his hand. He smiled on Ralph and nodded 
friendly to him. As to Ursula, she flushed as red as 
a rose when she set eyes on him, for she said to her- 
self that he was as one of the angels which she had seen 
painted in the choir of St. Mary's at Higham. 

CHAPTER VI. THOSE TWO ARE LEARNED 
LORE BY THE SAGE OF SWEVENHAM. 

NOW the Sage led them through the wood till 
they came to a grassy lawn amidst of which 
was a table of stone, which it seemed to Ralph 
must be like to that whereon the witch-wife had 
offered up the goat to her devils as the Lady of Abun- 
dance had told him ; and he changed countenance as 
the thought came into his mind. But the Sage looked 
on him and shook his head and spake softly : c< In 
these wastes and wilds are many such-like places, 
where of old time the ancient folks did worship to the 
Gods of the Earth as they imagined them : and whereas 
the lore in this book cometh of such folk, this is no 
ill place for the reading thereof. But if ye fear the 
book and its writers, who are dead long ago, there is 
yet time to go back and seek the Well without my 
helping ; and I say not but that ye may find it even 
thus. But if ye fear not, then sit ye down on the 
grass, and I will lay the book on this most ancient 
table, and read in it, and do ye hearken heedfully." 

So they sat down side by side, and Ralph would 
have taken Ursula's hand to caress it, but she drew it 

34 



away from him ; howbeit she found it hard to keep 
her eyes from off him. The Elder looked on them 
soberly, but nowise in anger, and presently began read- 
ing in the book. What he read shall be seen here- 
after in the process of this tale ; for the more part 
thereof had but to do with the way to the Well at 
the World's End, all things concerning which were 
told out fully, both great and small. Long was this 
a-reading, and when the Sage had done, he bade now 
one, now the other answer him questions as to what 
he had read ; and if they answered amiss he read that 
part again, and yet again, as children are taught in the 
school. Until at last when he asked any question 
Ralph or the maiden answered it rightly at once ; and 
by this time the sun was about to set. So he bade 
them home to his house that they might eat and sleep 
there. 

" But to-morrow," said he, " I shall give you your 
last lesson from this book, and thereafter ye shall go 
your ways to the Rock of the Fighting Man, and I 
look not for it that ye shall come to any harm on the 
way ; but whereas I seem to-day to have seen the foes 
of Utterbol seeking you, I will lead you forth a little." 

So they went home to the house, and he made them 
the most cheer that he might, and spake to them in 
friendly and pleasant mood, so that they were merry. 

When it was morning they went again to the ancient 
altar, and again they learned lore from the Elder, till 
they were waxen wise in the matters of the Well at 
the World's End, and long they sat and hearkened 
him till it was evening again, and once more they slept 
in the house of the Sage of Swevenham, 



35 



CHAPTER VII. AN ADVENTURE BY THE 
WAY. 

WHEN morrow dawned they arose betimes 
and did on their worldly raiment ; and when 
they had eaten a morsel they made them 
ready for the road, and the elder gave them victual 
for the way in their saddle-bags, saying : " This shall 
suffice for the passing days, and when it is gone ye 
have learned what to do." 

Therewithall they gat to horse ; but Ralph would 
have the Elder ride his nag, while he went afoot by 
the side of Ursula. So the Sage took his bidding, 
but smiled therewith, and said : c< Thou art a King's 
son and a friendly young man, else had I said nay to 
this ; for it needeth not, whereas I am stronger than 
thou, so hath my draught of the Well dealt with 



me." 



Thus then they went their ways ; but Ralph noted 
of Ursula that she was silent and shy with him, and 
it irked him so much, that at last he said to her : " My 
friend, doth aught ail me with thee ? Wilt thou not 
tell me, so that I may amend it ? For thou art grown 
of few words with me and turnest thee from me, and 
seemest as if thou heedest me little. Thou art as a 
fair spring morning gone cold and overcast in the 
afternoon. What is it then ? we are going a long journey 
together, and belike shall find little help or comfort 
save in each other; and ill will it be if we fall asunder 
in heart, though we be nigh in body." 

She laughed and reddened therewithal; and then 
her countenance fell and she looked piteously on him 
and said : cc If I seemed to thee as thou sayest, I am 
sorry ; for I meant not to be thus with thee as thou 
deemest. But so it is that I was thinking of this long 
journey, and of thee and me together in it, and how 

36 



we shall be with each other if we come back again alive, 
with all things done that we had to do." 

She stayed her speech awhile, and seemed to find it 
hard to give forth the word that was in her ; but at 
last she said : " Friend, thou must pardon me ; but 
that which thou sawest in me, I also seemed to see in 
thee, that thou wert grown shy and cold with me ; but 
now I know it is not so, since thou hast seen me 
wrongly ; but that I have seen thee wrongly, as thou 
hast me." 

Therewith she reached her hand to him, and he 
took it and kissed it and caressed it while she looked 
fondly at him, and they fared on sweetly and happily 
together. But as this was a-saying and a-doing betwixt 
them, and awhile after, they had heeded the Elder little 
or not at all, though he rode on the right hand of 
Ralph. And for his part the old man said naught to 
them and made as if he heard them not, when they 
spake thuswise together. 

Now they rode the wood on somewhat level ground 
for a while; then the trees began to thin, and the 
ground grew broken ; and at last it was very rugged, 
with high hills and deep valleys, and all the land 
populous of wild beasts, so that about sunset they 
heard thrice the roar of a lion. But ever the Sage led 
them by winding ways that he knew, round the feet 
of the hills, along stream-sides for the most part, and 
by passes over the mountain-necks when they needs 
must, which was twice in the day. 

Dusk fell on them in a little valley, through 
which ran a stream bushed about its edges, and which 
for the rest was grassy and pleasant, with big sweet- 
chestnut trees scattered about it. 

a Now," quoth the Elder ; cc two things we have to 
beware of in this valley, the lions first ; which, though 
belike they will not fall upon weaponed men, may well 
make an onslaught on your horses, if they wind them ; 

37 



and the loss of the beasts were sore to you as now. 
But the second thing is the chase from Utterbol. As 
to the lions, if ye build up a big fire, and keep somewhat 
aloof from the stream and its bushes, and tether your 
horses anigh the fire, ye will have no harm of them." 

" Yea," said Ralph, tc but if the riders of Utterbol 
are anigh us, shall we light a candle for them to show 
them the way ?" Said the Sage: " Were ye by your- 
selves, I would bid you journey night-long, and run 
all risk rather than the risk of falling into their hands. 
But whereas I am your guide, I bid you kindle your 
fire under yonder big tree, and leave me to deal with 
the men of Utterbol ; only whatso I bid you, that do 
ye straightway." 

" So be it," said Ralph, " I have been bewrayed so 
oft of late, that I must needs trust thee, or all help 
shall fail me. Let us to work." So they fell to and 
built up a big bale and kindled it, and their horses 
they tethered to the tree ; and by then they had done 
this, dark night had fallen upon them. So they 
cooked their victual at the fire (for Ralph had shot a 
hare by the way) and the Sage went down to the stream 
and fetched them water in a leathern budget : " For," 
said he, " I know the beasts of the wood and they me, 
and there is peace betwixt us." There then they sat 
to meat unarmed, for the Sage had said to them: 
<f Doff your armour ; ye shall not come to handy- 
strokes with the Utterbol Riders." 

So they ate their meat in the wilderness, and were 
nowise ungleeful, for to those twain the world seemed 
fair, and they hoped for great things. But though 
they were glad, they were weary enough, for the way 
had been both rugged and long; so they lay them 
down to sleep while the night was yet young. But or 
ever Ralph closed his eyes he saw the Sage standing up 
with his cloak wrapped about his head, and making 
strange signs with his right hand ; so that he deemed 



that he would ward them by wizardry. So therewith 
he turned about on the grass and was asleep at once. 

After a while he started and sat up, half awake at 
first ; for he felt some one touch him ; and his half- 
dreams went back to past days, and he cried out : 
cc Hah Roger ! is it thou ? What is toward ? " But 
therewith he woke up fully, and knew that it was 
the Sage that had touched him, and withal he saw hard 
by Ursula, sitting up also. 

There was still a flickering flame playing about the 
red embers of their fire, for they had made it very 
big ; and the moon had arisen and was shining bright 
in a cloudless sky. 

The Sage spake softly but quickly : " Lie down 
together, ye two, and I shall cast my cloak over you, 
and look to it that ye stir not from out of it, nor speak 
one word till I bid you, whatever may befall : for the 
riders of Utterbol are upon us." 

They did as he bade them, but Ralph got somewhat 
of an eye-shot out of a corner of the cloak, and he 
could see that the Sage went and stood up against the 
tree-trunk holding a horse by the bridle, one on each 
side of him. Even therewith Ralph heard the clatter 
of horse-hoofs over the stones about the stream, and 
a man's voice cried out : " They will have heard us ; 
so spur over the grass to the fire and the big tree : 
for then they cannot escape us." Then came the 
thump of horse- hoofs on the turf, and in half a minute 
they were amidst of a route of men a-horseback, more 
than a score, whose armour and weapons gleamed in 
the moonlight: yet when these riders were gotten 
there, they were silent, till one said in a quavering 
voice as if afeared : " Otter, Otter ! what is this ? A 
minute ago and we could all see the fire, and the tree 
and men and horses about them : and now, lo you ! 
there is naught save two great grey stones lying on 
the grass, and a man's bare bones leaning up against 

39 



the tree, and a ruckle of old horse-bones on either side 
of him. Where are we then ? " 

Then spake another ; and Ralph knew the voice for 
Otter's : " I wot not, lord ; naught else is changed 
save the fire and the horses and the men : yonder are 
the hills, yonder overhead is the moon, with the little 
light cloud dogging her ; even that is scarce changed. 
Belike the fire was an earth-fire, and for the rest we 
saw wrong in the moonlight." 

Spake the first man again, and his voice quavered 
yet more : tc Nay nay, Otter, it is not so. Lo you the 
skeleton and the bones and the grey stones ! And the 
fire, here this minute, there the next. O Otter, this 
is an evil place of an evil deed ! Let us go seek else- 
where; let us depart, lest a worse thing befall us/* 
And so with no more ado he turned his horse and 
smote his spurs into him and galloped off by the way 
he had come, and the others followed, nothing loth ; 
only Otter tarried a little, and looked around him and 
laughed and said : " There goes my Lord's nephew ; 
like my Lord he is not over bold, save in dealing with 
a shackled man. Well, for my part if those others 
have sunk into the earth, or gone up into the air, they 
are welcome to their wizardry, and I am glad of it. 
For I know not how I should have done to have seen 
my mate that out- til ted me made a gelded wretch of; 
and it would have irked me to see that fair woman in 
the hands of the tormentors, though forsooth I have 
oft seen such sights. Well, it is good ; but better were 
it to ride with my mate than serve the Devil and his 
Nephew/' 

Therewith he turned rein and galloped off after 
the others, and in a little while the sound of them had 
died off utterly into the night, and they heard but the 
voices of the wild things, and the wimbrel laughing 
from the hill-sides. Then came the Sage and drew the 
cloak from those two, and laughed on them and said : 

40 






" Now may ye sleep soundly, when I have mended 
our fire ; for ye will see no more of Utterbol for this 
time, and it yet lacks three hours of dawn : sleep ye 
then and dream of each other." Then they arose and 
thanked the Sage with whole hearts and praised his 
wisdom. But while the old man mended the fire Ralph 
went up to Ursula and took her hand, and said: 
" Welcome to life, fellow- farer!" andhe gazed earnestly 
into her eyes, as though he would have her fall into his 
arms : but whereas she rather shrank from him, though 
she looked on him lovingly, if somewhat shyly, he but 
kissed her hand, and laid him down again, when he 
had seen her lying in her place. And therewith they 
fell asleep and slept sweetly. 



CHAPTER VIII. THEY COME TO THE SEA 
OF MOLTEN ROCKS. 

WHEN they woke again the sun was high 
above their heads, and they saw the Sage 
dighting their breakfast. So they arose and 
washed the night ofFthem in the stream and ate hastily, 
and got to horse on a fair forenoon ; then they rode the 
mountain neck east from that valley ; and it was a long 
slope of stony and barren mountain nigh waterless. 

And on the way Ursula told Ralph how the man 
who was scared by the wizardry last night was verily 
the nephew of the Lord from whom she had stolen 
her armour by wheedling and a seeming promise. 
" But/' said she, " his love lay not so deep but that 
he would have avenged him for my guile on my very 
body had he taken us." Ralph reddened and scowled 
at her word, and the Sage led them into other talk. 

So long was that fell, that they were nigh benighted 
ere they gained the topmost, or came to any pass. 
When they had come to a place where there was a 
little pool in a hollow of the rocks they made stay 



there, and slept safe, but ill-lodged, and on the morrow 
were on their way betimes, and went toiling up the 
neck another four hours, and came to a long rocky 
ridge or crest that ran athwart it ; and when they had 
come to the brow thereof, then were they face to face 
with the Great Mountains, which now looked so huge 
that they seemed to fill all the world save the ground 
; whereon they stood. Cloudless was the day, and the 
air clean and sweet, and every nook and cranny was 
clear to behold from where they stood : there were great 
jutting nesses with straight-walled burgs at their top- 
most, and pyramids and pinnacles that no hand of man 
had fashioned, and awful clefts like long streets in the 
city of the giants who wrought the world, and high 
above all the undying snow that looked as if the sky 
had come down on to the mountains and they were 
upholding it as a roof. 

But clear as was the fashion of the mountains, 
they were yet a long way off : for betwixt them and 
the ridge whereon those fellows stood, stretched a vast 
plain, houseless and treeless, and, as they beheld it 
thence grey and ungrassed (though indeed it was not 
wholly so) like a huge river or firth of the sea it 
seemed, and such indeed it had been once, to wit a 
flood of molten rock in the old days when the earth 
was a-burning. 

Now as they stood and beheld it, the Sage spake : 
<c Lo ye, my children, the castle and its outwork, and 
its dyke that wardeth the land of the Well at the 
World's End. Now from to-morrow, when we enter 
into the great sea of the rock molten in the ancient 
earth-fires, there is no least peril of pursuit for you. 
Yet amidst that sea should ye perish belike, were it not 
for the wisdom gathered by a few ; and they are dead 
now save for the Book, and for me, who read it unto 
you. Now ye would not turn back were I to bid you, 
and I will not bid you. Yet since the journey shall 

42 



be yet with grievous toil and much peril, and shall try 
the very hearts within you, were ye as wise as Solomon 
and as mighty as Alexander, I will say this much unto 
you ; that if ye lo^e not the earth and the world with 
all your souls, and will not strive all ye may to be frank 
and happy therein, your toil and peril aforesaid shall 
win you no blessing but a curse. Therefore I bid you 
be no tyrants or builders of cities for merchants and 
usurers and warriors and thralls, like the fool who 
builded Goldberg to be for a tomb to him: or like 
the thrall-masters of the Burg of the Four Friths, who 
even now, it may be, are pierced by their own staff or 
overwhelmed by their own wall. But rather I bid 
you to live in peace and patience without fear or 
hatred, and to succour the oppressed and love the 
lovely, and to be the friends of men, so that when ye 
are dead at last, men may say of you, they brought 
down Heaven to the Earth for a little while. What 
say ye, children ? " 

Then said Ralph : " Father, I will say the sooth 
about mine intent, though ye may deem it little- 
minded. When I have accomplished this quest, I 
would get me home again to the little land of Up- 
meads, to see my father and my mother, and to guard 
its meadows from waste and its houses from fire- 
raising : to hold war aloof and walk in the free fields, 
and see my children growing up about me, and lie at 
last beside my fathers in the choir of St. Laurence. 
The dead would I love and remember; the living 
would I love and cherish ; and Earth shall be the well 
beloved house of my Fathers, and Heaven the highest 
hall thereof." 

" It is well," said the Sage, " all this shalt thou do 
and be no little-heart, though thou do no more. And 
thou, maiden ? " 

She looked on Ralph and said : " I lost, and then I 
found, and then I lost again. Maybe I shall find the 

43 



lost once more. And for the rest, in all that this man 
will do, I will help, living or dead, for I know naught 
better to do." 

" Again it is well," said the Sage, " and the lost 
which was verily thine shalt thou find again, and good 
days and their ending shall betide thee. Ye shall 
have no shame in your lives and no fear in your 
deaths. Wherefore now lieth the road free before you." 

Then was he silent a while, neither spake the others 
aught, but stood gazing on the dark grey plain, and 
the blue wall that rose beyond it, till at last the Sage 
lifted up his hand and said : <c Look yonder, chil- 
dren, to where I point, and ye shall see how there 
thrusteth out a ness from the mountain- wall, and the 
end of it stands like a bastion above the lava-sea, and 
on its sides and its head are streaks ruddy and tawny, 
where the earth-fires have burnt not so long ago : see 
ye?" 

Ralph looked and said : (C Yea, father, I see it, and 
its rifts and its ridges, and its crannies." 

Quoth the Sage : " Behind that ness shall ye come 
to the Rock of the Fighting Man, which is the very 
Gate of the Mountains ; and I will not turn again 
nor bid you farewell till I have brought you thither. 
And now time presses ; for I would have you come 
timely to that cavern, whereof I have taught you, 
before ye fall on the first days of winter, or ye shall 
be hard bestead. So now we will eat a morsel, and 
then use diligence that we may reach the beginning of 
the rock-sea before nightfall." 

So did they, and the Sage led them down by a slant- 
way from off the ridge, which was toilsome but nowise 
perilous. So about sunset they came down into the 
plain, and found a belt of greensward, and waters 
therein betwixt the foot of the ridge and the edge of 
the rock-sea. And as for the said sea, though from 
afar it looked plain and unbroken, now that they were 

44 



close to, and on a level with it, they saw that it rose 
up into cliffs, broken down in some places, and in 
others arising high into the air, an hundred foot, it 
might be. Sometimes it thrust out into the green 
shore below the fell, and otherwhile drew back from 
it as it had cooled ages ago. 

So they came to a place where there was a high wall 
of rock round three sides of a grassy place by a stream- 
side, and there they made their resting-place, and the 
night went calmly and sweetly with them. 

CHAPTER IX. THEY COME FORTH FROM 
THE ROCK-SEA. 

ON the morrow the Sage led them straight into 
the rock-sea whereas it seemed to them at 
first that he was but bringing them into 
a blind alley ; but at the end of the bight the rock- 
wall was broken down into a long scree of black stones. 
There the Sage bade Ralph and Ursula dismount (as 
for him he had been going afoot ever since that first 
day) and they led the horses up the said scree, which 
was a hard business, as they were no mountain beasts. 
And when they were atop of the scree it was harder 
yet to get them down, for on that side it was steeper ; 
but at last they brought it about, and came down into 
a little grassy plain or isle in the rock sea, which 
narrowed toward the eastern end, and the rocks on 
either side were smooth and glossy, as if the heat had 
gone out of them suddenly, when the earth-fires had 
ceased in the mountains. 

Now the Sage showed them on a certain rock a 
sign cut, whereof they had learned in the book afore- 
said, to wit, a sword crossed by a three-leaved bough; 
and they knew by the book that they should press on 
through the rock-sea nowhere, either going or return- 
ing, save where they should see this token. 

45 



Now when they came to the narrow end of the 
plain they found still a wide way between the rock- 
walls, that whiles widened out, and whiles drew in 
again. Whiles withal were screes across the path, 
and little waters that ran out of the lava and into it 
again, and great blocks of fallen stone, sometimes as 
big as a husbandman's cot, that wind and weather had 
rent from the rocks ; and all these things stayed them 
somewhat. But they went on merrily, albeit their 
road winded so much, that the Sage told them, when 
evening was, that for all their diligence they had but 
come a few short miles as the crow flies. 

Many wild things there were, both beast and fowl, 
in these islands and bridges of the rock-sea, hares and 
conies to wit, a many, and heathfowl, and here and 
there a red fox lurking about the crannies of the rock- 
wall. Ralph shot a brace of conies with his Turk 
bow, and whereas there were bushes growing in the 
chinks, and no lack of whin and ling, they had firing 
enough, and supped off this venison of the rocks. 

So passed that day and two days more, and naught 
befell, save that on the midnight of the first day of 
their wending the rock-sea, Ralph awoke and saw the 
sky all ablaze with other light than that of the moon ; 
so he arose and went hastily to the Sage, and took him 
by the shoulder, and bid him awake ; " For meseems 
the sky is afire, and perchance the foe is upon us." 

The Sage awoke and opened his eyes, and rose on 
his elbow and looked around sleepily ; then he said 
laughing : " It is naught, fair lord, thou mayst lie down 
and sleep out the remnant of the night, and thou also, 
maiden : this is but an earth-fire breaking out on the 
flank of the mountains ; it may be far away hence. 
Now ye see that we may not scale the rocks about us 
here without toil ; but to-morrow night we may climb 
up somewhere and look on what is toward." 

So Ralph lay down and Ursula also, but Ralph lay 
46 



long awake watching the light above him, which grew 
fiercer and redder in the hours betwixt moonset and 
daybreak, when he fell asleep, and woke not again 
till the sun was high. 

But on the next day as they went, the aspect of the 
rock-sea about them changed : for the rocks were not 
so smooth and shining and orderly, but rose up in 
confused heaps all clotted together by the burning, 
like to clinkers out of some monstrous forge of the 
earth-giants, so that their way was naught so clear as 
it had been, but was rather a maze of jagged stone. , 
But the Sage led through it all unfumbling, and more- 
over now and again they came on that carven token 
of the sword and the bough. Night fell, and as it 
grew dark they saw the glaring of the earth-fires 
again ; and when they were rested, and had done their 
meat, the Sage said : " Come now with me, for hard 
by is there a place as it were a stair that goeth to the 
top of a great rock, let us climb it and look about 
us." 

So did they, and the head of the rock was higher 
than the main face of the rock-sea, so that they could 
see afar. Thence they looked north and beheld afar 
off a very pillar of fire rising up from a ness of the 
mountain wall, and seeming as if it bore up a black 
roof of smoke ; and the huge wall gleamed grey, be- 
cause of its light, and it cast a ray of light across the 
rock-sea as the moon doth over the waters of the 
deep : withal there was the noise as of thunder in the 
air, but afar off: which thunder indeed they had heard 
oft, as they rode through the afternoon and evening. 

Spake the Sage : " It is far away : yet if the wind 
were not blowing from us, we had smelt the smoke, 
and the sky had been darkened by it. Now it is 
naught so far from Utterbol, and it will be for a token 
to them there. For that ness is called the Candle of 
the Giants, and men deem that the kindling thereof 

47 



forebodeth ill to the lord who sitteth on the throne in 
the red hall of Utterbol." 

Ralph laid his hand on Ursula's shoulder and said : 
" May the Sage's saw be sooth ! " 

She put her hand upon the hand and said : " Three 
months ago I lay on my bed at Bourton Abbas, and 
all the while here was this huge manless waste lying 
under the bare heavens and threatened by the store- 
house of the fires of the earth : and I had not seen 
it, nor thee either, O friend ; and now it hath become 
a part of me for ever." 

Then was Ralph exceeding glad of her words, and 
the Sage laughed inwardly when he beheld them thus. 

So they came adown from the rock, and lay down 
presently under the fiery heavens: and their souls 
were comforted by the sound of the horses cropping 
the grass so close to their ears, that it broke the voice 
of the earth- fires' thunder, that ever and anon rolled 
over the grey sea amidst which they lay. 

On the morrow they still rode the lava like to 
clinkers, and it rose higher about them, till suddenly 
nigh sunset it ended at a turn of their winding road, 
and naught lay betwixt them and that mighty ness of 
the mountains, save a wide grassy plain, here and there 
swelling into low wide risings not to be called hills, 
and besprinkled with copses of bushes, and with trees 
neither great nor high. Then spake the Sage : " Here 
now will we rest, and by my will to-morrow also, that 
your beasts may graze their fill of the sweet grass of 
these unwarded meadows, which feedeth many a herd 
unowned of man, albeit they pay a quit-rent to wild 
things that be mightier than they. And now, children, 
we have passed over the mighty river that once ran 
molten betwixt these mountains and the hills yonder 
to the west, which we trod the other day ; yet once 
more, if your hearts fail you, there is yet time to turn 
back ; and no harm shall befall you, but I will be your 

48 



fellow all the way home to Swevenham if ye will. 
But if ye still crave the water of the Well at the 
World's End, I will lead you over this green plain, 
and then go back home to mine hermitage, and abide 
there till ye come to me, or I die." 

Ralph smiled and said : " Master, no such sorry 
story shall I bear back to Upmeads, that after many 
sorrows borne, and perils overcome, I came to the 
Gates of the Mountains, and turned back for fear of 
that which I had not proved." 

So spake he ; but Ursula laughed and said : " Yea, 
then should I deem thy friendship light if thou leftest 
me alone and unholpen in the uttermost wilderness ; 
and thy manhood light to turn back from that which 
did not make a woman afraid." 

Then the Sage looked kindly on them and said : 
" Yea, then is the last word spoken, and the world 
may yet grow merrier to me. Look you, some there 
be who may abuse the gifts of the Well for evil 
errands, and some who may use it for good deeds ; 
but I am one who hath not dared to use it lest I should 
abuse it, I being alone amongst weaklings and fools : 
but now if ye come back, who knows but that I may 
fear no longer, but use my life, and grow to be a 
mighty man. Come now, let us dight our supper, and 
kindle as big a fire as we lightly may ; since there is 
many a prowling beast about, as bear and lynx and 
lion ; for they haunt this edge of the rock-sea whereto 
the harts and the wild bulls and the goats resort for 
the sweet grass, and the water that floweth forth from 
the lava." 

So they cut good store of firing, whereas there was 
a plenty of bushes growing in the clefts of the rocks, 
and they made a big fire and tethered their horses 
anigh it when they lay down to rest ; and in the night 
they heard the roaring of wild things round about 
them, and more than once or twice, awakening before 

n. 49 E 



day, they saw the shape of some terrible creature by 
the light of the moon mingled with the glare of the 
earth-fires, but none of these meddled with them, and 
naught befell them save the coming of the new day. 

CHAPTER X. THEY COME TO THE GATE 
OF THE MOUNTAINS. 

THAT day they herded their horses thereabout, 
and from time to time the Sage tried those 
two if they were perfect in the lore of the 
road ; and he found that they had missed nothing. 

They lay down in the self-same place again that 
night, and arose betimes on the morrow and went their 
ways over the plain as the Sage led, till it was as if the 
mountains and their terror hung over their very heads, 
and the hugeness and blackness of them were worse 
than a wall of fire had been. It was still a long way 
to them, so that it was not till noon of the third day 
from the rock-sea that they came to the very feet of 
that fire-scorched ness, and wonderful indeed it seemed 
to them that anything save the eagles could have aught 
to tell of what lay beyond it. 

There were no foothills or downs betwixt the plain 
and the mountains, naught save a tumble of rocks 
that had fallen from the cliffs, piled up strangely, and 
making a maze through which the Sage led them 
surely ; and at last they were clear even of this, and 
were underneath the flank of that ness, which was so 
huge that themseemed that there could scarce be any 
more mountain than that. Little of its huge height 
could they see, now they were close to it, for it went 
up sheer at first and then beetled over them till they 
could see no more of its side ; as they wound about 
its flank, and they were long about it, the Sage cried 
out to those two and stretched out his hand, and behold! 
the side of the black cliff plain and smooth and shining 

5 



as if it had been done by the hand of men or giants, 
and on this smooth space was carven in the living 
rock the image of a warrior in mail and helm of ancient 
fashion, and holding a sword in his right hand. From 
head to heel he seemed some sixty feet high, and the 
rock was so hard, that he was all clean and clear to 
see ; and they deemed of him that his face was keen 
and stern of aspect. 

So there they stood in an awful bight of the moun- 
tain, made by that ness, and the main wall from which 
it thrust out. But after they had gazed awhile and 
their hearts were in their mouths, the Sage turned on 
those twain and said : " Here then is the end of my 
journey with you ; and ye wot all that I can tell you, 
and I can say no word more save to bid you cast all 
fear aside and thrive. Ye have yet for this day's jour- 
ney certain hours of such daylight as the mountain 
pass will give you, which at the best is little better 
than twilight ; therefore redeem ye the time." 

But Ralph got off his horse, and Ursula did in 
likewise, and they both kissed and embraced the old 
man, for their hearts were full and fain. But he drew 
himself away from them, and turned about with no 
word more, and went his ways, and presently was 
hidden from their eyes by the rocky maze which lay 
about the mountain's foot. Then the twain mounted 
their horses again and set forth silently on the road, as 
they had been bidden. 

In a little while the rocks of the pass closed about 
them, leaving but a way so narrow that they could see 
a glimmer of the stars above them as they rode the 
twilight ; no sight they had of the measureless stony 
desert, yet in their hearts they saw it. They seemed 
to be wending a straight-walled prison without an end, 
so that they were glad when the dark night came on 
them. 

Ralph found some shelter in the cleft of a rock 

5 1 



above a mound where was little grass for the horses. 
He drew Ursula into it, and they sat down there on 
the stones together. So long they sat silent that a 
great gloom settled upon Ralph, and he scarce knew 
whether he were asleep of waking, alive or dead. But 
amidst of it fell a sweet voice on his ears, and familiar 
words asking him of what like were the fields of Up- 
meads, and the flowers; and of the fish of its water, and 
of the fashion of the building of his fathers house ; and 
of his brethren, and the mother that bore him. Then 
was it to him at first as if a sweet dream had come 
across the void of his gloom, and then at last the 
gloom and the dread and the deadness left him, and 
he knew that his friend and fellow was talking to him, 
and that he sat by her knee to knee, and the sweet- 
ness of her savoured in his nostrils as she leaned her 
face toward him, and he knew himself for what he 
was ; and yet for memory of that past horror, and the 
sweetness of his friend and what not else, he fell 
a- weeping. But Ursula bestirred herself and brought 
out food from her wallet, and sat down beside him 
again,and he wiped the tears from his eyes and laughed, 
and chid himself for being as a child in the dark, and 
then they ate and drank together in that dusk nook 
of the wilderness. And now was he happy and his 
tongue was loosed, and he fell to telling her many 
things of Upmeads, and of the tale of his forefathers, 
and of his old loves and his friends, till life and death 
seemed to him as they had seemed of time past in the 
merry land of his birth. So there anon they fell 
asleep for weariness, and no dreams of terror beset 
their slumbers. 



CHAPTER XI. THEY COME TO THE VALE 
OF SWEET CHESTNUTS. 

WHEN they went on their way next morning 
they found little change in the pass, and 
they rode the dread highway daylong, and 
it was still the same : so they rested a little before 
nightfall at a place where there was water running out 
of the rocks, but naught else for their avail. Ralph 
was merry and helpful and filled water from the 
runnel, and wrought what he might to make the 
lodging meet ; and as they ate and rested he said to 
Ursula : " Last night it was thou that beguiled me of 
my gloom, yet thereafter till we slept it was my voice 
for the more part, and not thine, that was heard in 
the wilderness. Now to-night it shall be otherwise, 
and I will but ask a question of thee, and hearken to 
the sweetness of thy voice." 

She laughed a little and very sweetly, and she said : 
cc Forsooth, dear friend, I spoke to thee that I might 
hear thy voice ; for I was afraid of the hugeness and 
emptiness of the desert; but when I heard thee, I 
deemed that the world was yet alive for us to come 
back to." 

He was silent awhile, for his heart was pierced with 
the sweetness of her speech, and he had fain have 
spoken back as sweetly as a man might ; yet he could 
not because he feared her somewhat, lest she should 
turn cold to him ; therefore himseemed that he spoke 
roughly, as he said : " Nevertheless, my friend, I be- 
seech thee to tell me of thine old home, even as last 
night I told thee of mine. " 

" Yea," she said, c< with a good will." And straight- 
way she fell to telling him of her ways when she was 
little, and of her father and mother, and of her sister 
that had died, and the brother whom Ralph had seen 
at Bourton Abbas : she told also of bachelors who had 

53 



wooed her, and jested concerning them, yet kindly and 
without malice, and talked so sweetly and plainly, that 
the wilderness was become a familiar place to Ralph, 
and he took her hand in the dusk and said : " But, 
my friend, how was it with the man for whom thou 
wert weeping when I first fell in with thee at Bourton 
Abbas?" 

She said : " I will tell thee plainly, as a friend may 
to a friend. Three hours had not worn from thy 
departure ere tidings came to me concerning him, 
that neither death nor wounding had befallen him ; 
and that his masterless horse and bloodstained saddle 
were but a device to throw dust into our eyes, so 
that there might be no chase after him by the men 
of the Abbot's bailiff, and that he might lightly do as 
he would, to wit, swear himself into the riders of the 
Burg of the Four Friths ; for, in sooth, he was weary 
of me and mine. Yet further, I must needs tell thee 
that I know now, that when I wept before thee it was 
partly in despite, because I had found out in my 
heart (though I bade it not tell me so much) that I 
loved him but little." 

" Yea," said Ralph, <c and when didst thou come to 
that knowledge of thine heart ? " 

" Dear friend," she said, cc mayhappen I may tell 
thee hereafter, but as now I will forbear." He laughed 
for joy of her, and in a little that talk fell down 
between them. 

Despite the terror of the desert and the lonely ways, 
when Ralph laid him down on his stony bed, happi- 
ness wrapped his heart about. Albeit all this while 
he durst not kiss or caress her, save very measurely, 
for he deemed that she would not suffer it ; nor as 
yet would he ask her wherefore, though he had it in 
his mind that he would not always forbear to ask 
her. 

Many days they rode that pass of the mountains, 
54 



though it was not always so evil and dreadful as at 
the first beginning; for now again the pass opened 
out into little valleys, wherein was foison of grass and 
sweet waters withal, and a few trees. In such places 
must they needs rest them, to refresh their horses as 
well as themselves, and to gather food, of venison, 
and wild-fruit and nuts. But abiding in such vales 
was very pleasant to them. 

At last these said valleys came often and oftener, 
till it was so that all was pretty much one valley, 
whiles broken by a mountain neck, whiles straitened by 
a ness of the mountains that jutted into it, but never 
quite blind : yet was the said valley very high up, and 
as it were a trench of the great mountain. So they 
were glad that they had escaped from that strait prison 
betwixt the rock-walls, and were well at ease : and 
they failed never to find the tokens that led them on 
the way, even as they had learned of the Sage, so that 
they were not beguiled into any straying. 

And now they had worn away thirty days since 
they had parted from the Sage, and the days began 
to shorten and the nights to lengthen apace ; when on 
the forenoon of a day, after they had ridden a very 
rugged mountain-neck, they came down and down 
into a much wider valley into which a great reef of 
rocks thrust out from the high mountain, so that the 
northern half of the said vale was nigh cleft atwain 
by it ; well grassed was the vale, and a fair river ran 
through it, and there were on either side the water 
great groves of tall and great sweet-chestnuts and 
walnut trees, whereon the nuts were now ripe. They 
rejoiced as they rode into it ; for they remembered 
how the Sage had told them thereof, that their travel 
and toil should be stayed there awhile, and that there 
they should winter, because of the bread which they 
could make them of the chestnuts, and the plenty of 
walnuts, and that withal there was foison of venison. 

55 



So they found a ford of the river and crossed it, 
and went straight to the head of the rocky ness, being 
shown thither by the lore of the Sage, and they found in 
the face of the rock the mouth of a cavern, and beside 
it the token of the sword and the branch. There- 
fore they knew that they had come to their winter 
house, and they rejoiced thereat, and without more 
ado they got off their horses and went into the cavern. 
The entry thereof was low, so that they must needs 
creep into it, but within it was a rock-hall, high, clean 
and sweet-smelling. 

There then they dight their dwelling, doing all they 
might to be done with their work before the winter 
was upon them. The day after they had come there 
they fell to on the ingathering of their chestnut harvest, 
and they dried them, and made them into meal ; and 
the walnuts they gathered also. Withal they hunted 
the deer, both great and small ; amongst which Ralph, 
not without some peril, slew two great bears, of which 
beasts, indeed, there was somewhat more than enough, 
as they came into the dale to feed upon the nuts and 
the berry-trees. So they soon had good store of 
peltries for their beds and their winter raiment, which 
Ursula fell to work on deftly, for she knew all the 
craft of needlework : and, shortly to tell it, they had 
enough and to spare of victual and raiment. 



CHAPTER XII. WINTER AMIDST OF THE 
MOUNTAINS. 

IN all this they had enough to be busy with, so 
that time hung not heavy on their hands, and the 
shadow of the Quest was nowise burdensome to 
them, since they wotted that they had to abide the 
wearing of the days till spring was come with fresh 
tidings. Their labour was nowise irksome to them, 

56 



since Ralph was deft in all manner of sports and crafts, 
such as up-country folk follow, and though he were 
a king's son, he had made a doughty yeoman : and as 
for Ursula, she also was country-bred, of a lineage of 
field-folk, and knew all the manners of the fields. 

Withal in whatsoever way it were, they loved each 
other dearly, and all kind of speech flowed freely 
betwixt them. Sooth to say, Ralph, taking heed of 
Ursula, deemed that she were fain to love him bodily, 
and he wotted well by now, that, whatever had be- 
fallen, he loved her, body and soul. Yet still was 
that fear of her naysay lurking in his heart, if he 
should kiss her, or caress her, as a man with a maid. 
Therefore he forbore, though desire of her tormented 
him grievously at whiles. 

They wore their armour but little now, save when 
they were about some journey wherein was peril of 
wild beasts. Ursula had dight her some due woman's 
raiment betwixt her knight's surcoat and doe-skins 
which they had gotten, so that it was not unseemly of 
fashion. As for their horses, they but seldom backed 
them, but used them to draw stuff to their rock-house 
on sledges, which they made of tree-boughs ; so that 
the beasts grew fat, feeding on the grass of the valley 
and the wild-oats withal, which grew at the upper 
end of the bight of the valley, toward the northern 
mountains, where the ground was sandy. No man 
they saw, nor any signs of man, nor had they seen 
any save the Sage, since those riders of Utterbol had 
vanished before them into the night. 

So wore autumn into winter, and the frost came, 
and the snow, with prodigious winds from out the 
mountains : yet was not the weather so hard but that 
they might go forth most days, and come to no hurt 
if they were wary of the drifts ; and forsooth needs 
must they go abroad to take venison for their livelihood. 

So the winter wore also amidst sweet speech and 

57 



friendliness betwixt the two, and they lived still as dear 
friends, and not as lovers. 

Seldom they spoke of the Quest, for it seemed 
to them now a matter over great for speech. But 
now they were grown so familiar each to each that 
Ursula took heart to tell Ralph more of the tidings of 
Utterbol, for now the shame and grief of her bondage 
there was but as a story told of another, so far away 
seemed that time from this. But so grievous was her 
tale that Ralph grew grim thereover, and he said : cc By 
St. Nicholas ! it were a good deed, once we are past the 
mountains again, to ride to Utterbol and drag that swine 
and wittol from his hall and slay him, and give his folk 
a good day. But then there is thou, my friend, and 
how shall I draw thee into deadly strife ? " 

" Nay," she said, " whereso thou ridest thither will 
I, and one fate shall lie on us both. We will think 
thereof and ask the Sage of it when we return. Who 
knows what shall have befallen then ? Remember the 
lighting of the candle of Utterbol that we saw from 
the Rock-sea, and the boding thereof." So Ralph was 
appeased for that time. 

Oft also they spake of the little lands whence they 
came, and on a time amidst of such talk Ursula said : 
" But alas, friend, why do I speak of all this, when now 
save for my brother, who loveth me but after a fashion, 
to wit that I must in all wise do his bidding, lad as he is, I 
have no longer kith nor kin there, save again as all the 
folk of one stead are somewhat akin. I think, my dear, 
that I have no country, nor any house to welcome me." 

Said Ralph : " All lands, any land that thou mayst 
come to, shall welcome tfiee, and I shall look to it 
that so it shall be." And in his heart he thought 
of the welcome of Upmeads, and of Ursula sitting on 
the dais of the hall of the High-House. 

So wore the days till Candlemass, when the frost 
broke and the snows began to melt, and the waters 

58 



came down from the mountains, so that the river rose 
over its banks and its waters covered the plain parts 
of the valley, and those two could go dryshod but a 
little way out of their cavern; no further than the 
green mound or toft which lay at the mouth thereof: 
but the waters were thronged with fowl, as mallard and 
teal and coots, and of these they took what they would. 
Whiles also they waded the shallows of the flood, and 
whiles poled a raft about it, and so had pleasure of the 
waters as before they had had of the snow. But when at 
last the very spring was come, and the grass began to 
grow after the showers had washed the plain of the 
waterborne mud, and the snowdrop had thrust up and 
blossomed, and the celandine had come, and then when 
the blackthorn bloomed and the Lent-lilies hid the 
grass betwixt the great chestnut-boles, when the sun 
shone betwixt the showers and the west wind blew, and 
the throstles and blackbirds ceased not their song be- 
twixt dawn and dusk, then began Ralph to say to him- 
self, that even if the Well at the World's End were not, 
and all that the Sage had told them was but a tale of 
Swevenham,yet were all better than well if Ursula were 
but to him a woman beloved rather than a friend. And 
whiles he was pensive and silent, even when she was 
by him, and she noted it and forbore somewhat the 
sweetness of her glances, and the caressing of her soft 
speech: though oft when he looked on her fondly, the 
blood would rise to her cheeks, and her bosom would 
heave with the thought of his desire, which quickened 
hers so sorely, that it became a pain and grief to her. 

CHAP. XIII. OF URSULA AND THE BEAR. 

IT befell on a fair sunny morning of spring, that 
Ralph sat alone on the toft by the rock-house, for 
Ursula had gone down the meadow to disport her 
and to bathe in the river. Ralph was fitting the blade 

59 



of a dagger to a long ashen shaft, to make him a strong 
spear; for with the waxing spring the bears were 
often in the meadows again ; and the day before they 
had come across a family of the beasts in the sandy 
bight under the mountains ; to wit a carle, and a quean 
with her cubs ; the beasts had seen them but afar off, 
and whereas the men were two and the sun shone back 
from their weapons, they had forborne them; although 
they were fierce and proud in those wastes, and could 
not away with creatures that were not of their kind. 
So because of this Ralph had bidden Ursula not to fare 
abroad without her sword, which was sharp and strong, 
and she no weakling withal. He bethought him of 
this just as he had made an end of his spear-shaping, 
so therewith he looked aside and saw the said sword 
hanging to a bough of a little quicken-tree, which grew 
hard by the door. Fear came into his heart therewith, 
so he arose and strode down over the meadow hastily 
bearing his new spear, and girt with his sword. Now 
there was a grove of chestnuts betwixt him and the 
river, but on the other side of them naught but the 
green grass down to the water's edge. 

Sure enough as he came under the trees he heard a 
shrill cry, and knew that it could be naught save Ursula ; 
so he ran thitherward whence came the cry, shouting as 
he ran, and was scarce come out of the trees ere he saw 
Ursula indeed, mother-naked, held in chase by a huge 
bear as big as a bullock : he shouted again and ran the 
faster ; but even therewith, whether she heard and saw 
him, and hoped for timely help, or whether she felt her 
legs failing her, she turned on the bear, and Ralph saw 
that she had a little axe in her hand wherewith she 
smote hardily at the beast ; but he, after the fashion of 
his kind, having risen to his hind legs, fenced with his 
great paws like a boxer, and smote the axe out of her 
hand, and she cried out bitterly and swerved from him 
and fell a running again ; but the bear tarried not, and 

60 



would have caught her in a few turns ; but even there- 
with was Ralph come up, who thrust the beast into the 
side with his long-headed spear, and, not waiting to 
pull it out again, drew sword in a twinkling, and smote 
a fore-paw off him and then drave the sword in over 
the shoulder so happily that it reached his heart, and 
he fell over dead with a mighty thump. 

Then Ralph looked around for Ursula ; but she had 
already run back to the river-side and was casting her 
raiment on her ; so he awaited her beside the slain bear, 
but with drawn sword, lest the other bear should come 
upon them ; for this was the he-bear. Howbeit he 
saw naught save presently Ursula all clad and coming 
towards him speedily; so he turned toward her, and 
when they met he cast himself upon her without a 
word, and kissed her greedily ; and she forbore not at 
all, but kissed and caressed him as if she could never 
be satisfied. 

So at last they drew apart a little, and walked 
quietly toward the rock-house hand in hand. And on 
the way she told him that even as she came up on to 
the bank from the water she saw the bear coming 
down on her as fast as he could drive, and so she but 
caught up her axe, and ran for it : cc Yet I had little 
hope, dear friend," said she, " but that thou shouldst 
be left alone in the wilderness." And therewith she 
turned on him and cast her arms about him again, all 
weeping for joy of their two lives. 

Thus slowly they came before the door of their 
rock-house and Ralph said : " Let us sit down here on 
the grass, and if thou art not over wearied with the 
flight and the battle, I will ask thee a question." She 
laid herself down on the grass with a sigh, yet it was 
as of one who sighs for pleasure and rest, and said, as 
he sat down beside her : " I am fain to rest my limbs 
and my body, but my heart is at rest ; so ask on, dear 
friend." 

61 



The song of birds was all around them, and the 
scent of many blossoms went past on the wings of the 
west wind, and Ralph was silent a little as he looked 
at the loveliness of his friend ; then he said : c< This 
is the question ; of what kind are thy kisses this 
morning, are they the kisses of a friend or a lover ? 
Wilt thou not call me beloved and not friend ? Shall 
not we two lie on the bridal bed this same night ? " 

She looked on him steadily, smiling, but for love 
and sweetness, not for shame and folly ; then she said : 
" O, dear friend and dearest lover, three questions are 
these and not one ; but I will answer all three as my heart 
biddeth me. And first, I will tell thee that my kisses 
are as thine ; and if thine are aught but the kisses of 
love, then am I befooled. And next, I say that if thou 
wilt be my friend indeed, I will not spare to call thee 
beloved, or to be all thy friend. But as to thy third 
question ; tell me, is there not time enough for that ?" 

She faltered as she spake, but he said: cc Look, be- 
loved, and see how fair the earth is to-day ! What 
place and what season can be goodlier than this ? And 
were it not well that we who love each other should 
have our full joy out of this sweet season, which as 
now is somewhat marred by our desire ? " 

"Ah, beloved!" she said, looking shyly at him, 
" is it so marred by that which marreth not us ? " 

" Hearken ! " he said ; cc how much longer shall 
this fairness and peace, and our leisure and safety 
endure ? Here and now the earth rejoiceth about us, 
and there is none to say us nay ; but to-morrow it may 
all be otherwise. Bethink thee, dear, if but an hour 
ago the monster had slain thee, and rent thee ere we 
had lain in each other's arms ! " 

" Alas ! " she said, " and had I lain in thine arms an 
hundred times, or an hundred times an hundred, 
should not the world be barren to me, wert thou gone 
from it, and that could never more be? But thou 

62 



friend, thou well-beloved, fain were I to do thy will 
that thou mightest be the happier . . . and I withal. 
And if thou command it, be it so ! Yet now should 
I tell thee all my thought, and it is on my mind, that 
for a many hundreds of years, yea, while our people 
were yet heathen, when a man should wed a maid all 
the folk knew of it, and were witnesses of the day and 
the hour thereof: now thou knowest that the time 
draws nigh when we may look for those messengers of 
the Innocent Folk, who come every spring to this 
cave to see if there be any whom they may speed on 
the way to the Well at the World's End. Therefore 
if thou wilt (and not otherwise) I would abide their 
coming if it be not over long delayed ; so that there 
may be others to witness our wedding besides God, 
and those his creatures who dwell in the wilderness. 
Yet shall all be as thou wilt." 

"How shall I not do after thy bidding?" said 
Ralph. " I will abide their coming : yet would that 
they were here to-day ! And one thing I will pray of 
thee, that because of them thou wilt not forbear, or 
cause me to forbear, such kissing and caressing as is 
meet betwixt troth-plight lovers." 

She laughed and said : u Nay, why should I tor- 
ment thee . . . or me ? We will not tarry for this." 
And therewith she took her arm about his neck and 
kissed him oft. 

Then they said naught awhile, but sat listening 
happily to the song of the pairing birds. At last 
Ralph said: "What was it, beloved, that thou wert 
perchance to tell me concerning the thing that caused 
thine heart to see that thy betrothed, for whom thou 
wepst or seemedst to weep at the ale-house at Bourton 
Abbas, was of no avail to thee ? " 

She said : a It was the sight of thee ; and I thought 
also how I might never be thine. For that I have 
sorrowed many a time since." 

63 



Said Ralph : " 1 am young and unmighty, yet lo ! 
I heal thy sorrow as if I were an exceeding mighty 
man. And now I tell thee that I am minded to go 
back with thee to Upmeads straightway ; for love will 
prevail." 

" Nay," she said, cc that word is but from the teeth 
outwards ; for thou knowest, as I do, that the perils 
of the homeward road shall overcome us, despite of 
love, if we have not drunk of the Well at the World's 
End." 

Again they were silent awhile, but anon she arose 
to her feet and said : " Now must I needs dight vic- 
tual for us twain ; but first " (and she smiled on him 
withal), " how is it that thou hast not asked me if the 
beast did me any hurt ? Art thou grown careless of 
me, now the wedding is so nigh ?" 

He said : " Nay, but could I not see thee that 
thou wert not hurt ? There was no mark of blood 
upon thee, nor any stain at all." Then she reddened, 
and said : " Ah, I forgot how keen-eyed thou art." 
And she stood silent a little while, as he looked on her 
and loved her sweetness. Then he said : " I am ex- 
ceeding full of joy, but my body is uneasy; so I will 
now go and skin that troll who went so nigh to slay 
thee, and break up the carcase, if thou wilt promise to 
abide about the door of the house, and have thy sword 
and the spear ready to hand, and to don thine helm 
and hauberk to boot." 

She laughed and said : <c That were but strange 
attire for a cook-maid, Ralph, my friend ; yet shall I 
do thy will, my lord and my love." 

Then went Ralph into the cave, and brought forth 
the armour and did it on her, and kissed her, and so 
went his ways to the carcase of the bear, which lay 
some two furlongs from their dwelling ; and when he 
came to the quarry he fell to work, and was some time 
about it, so huge as the beast was. Then he hung the 

64 



skin and the carcase on a tree of the grove, and went 
down to the river and washed him, and then went 
lightly homewards. 



CHAPTER XIV. NOW COME THE MES 
SENGERS OF THE INNOCENT FOLK. 

BUT when he had come forth from the chestnut- 
grove, and could see the face of their house- 
rock clearly, he beheld new tidings ; for there 
were folk before the door of the dwelling, and Ursula 
was standing amidst of them, for he could see the 
gleam of her armour ; and with the men he could see 
also certain beasts of burden, and anon that these 
were oxen. So he hastened on to find what this might 
mean, and drew his sword as he went. But when he 
came up to the rock, he found there two young men 
and an elder, and they had with them five oxen, three 
for riding, and two sumpter beasts, laden : and Ursula 
and these men were talking together friendly ; so that 
Ralph deemed that the new-comers must be the mes- 
sengers of the Innocent Folk. They were goodly 
men all three, somewhat brown of skin, but well 
fashioned, and of smiling cheerful countenance, well 
knit, and tall. The elder had a long white beard, 
but his eye was bright, and his hand firm and smooth. 
They were all clad in white woollen raiment, and bore 
no armour, but each had an axe with a green stone 
blade, curiously tied to the heft, and each of the 
young men carried a strong bow and a quiver of 
arrows. 

Ralph greeted the men, and bade them sit down 
on the toft and eat a morsel ; they took his greeting 
kindly, and sat down, while Ursula went into the 
cave to fetch them matters for their victual, and there 
was already venison roasting at the fire on the toft, 
in the place where they were wont to cook their meat. 

ii. 65 F 



So then came Ursula forth from the cave, and served 
the new-comers and Ralph of such things as she had, 
and they ate and drank together ; and none said 
aught of their errand till they had done their meat, 
but they talked together pleasantly about the spring, 
and the blossoms of the plain and the mountain, and 
the wild things that dwelt thereabout. 

But when the meal was over, the new-comers rose 
to their feet, and bowed before Ralph and Ursula, 
and the elder took up the word and said : tc Ye fair 
people, have ye any errand in the wilderness, or are 
ye chance-comers who have strayed thus far, and 
know not how to return ? " 

" Father," said Ralph, " we have come a long way 
on an errand of life or death ; for we seek the WELL 
at the WORLD'S END. And see ye the token 
thereof, the pair of beads which we bear, either of us, 
and the fashion whereof ye know/' 

Then the elder bowed to them again, and said: 
" It is well ; then is this our errand with you, to be 
your way-leaders as far as the House of the Sorceress, 
where ye shall have other help. Will ye set out on 
the journey to-day ? In one hour shall we be ready." 

w Nay," said Ralph, cc we will not depart till to- 
morrow morn, if it may be so. Therewith I bid you 
sit down and rest you, while ye hearken a word which 
I have to say to you." 

So they sat down again, and Ralph arose and took 
Ursula by the hand, and stood with her before the 
elder, and said : " This maiden, who is my fellow- 
farer in the Quest, I desire to wed this same night, 
and she also desireth me : therefore I would have you 
as witnesses hereto. But first ye shall tell us if our 
wedding and the knowing each other carnally shall be 
to our hurt in the Quest ; for if that be so, then shall 
we bridle our desires and perform our Quest in their 
despite." 

66 



The old man smiled upon them kindly, and said : 
cc Nay, son, we hear not that it shall be the worse for 
you in any wise that ye shall become one flesh ; and 
right joyful it is to us, not only that we have found 
folk who seek to the Well at the World's End, but 
also that there is such love as I perceive there is 
betwixt such goodly and holy folk as ye be. For 
hither we come year by year according to the behest 
that we made to the fairest woman of the world, 
when she came back to us from the Well at the 
World's End, and it is many and many a year ago 
since we found any seekers after the Well dwelling 
here. Therefore have we the more joy in you. 
And we have brought hither matters good for you, 
as raiment, and meal, and wine, on our sumpter- 
beasts ; therefore as ye have feasted us this morning, 
so shall we feast you this even. And if ye will, 
we shall build for you in the grove yonder such a 
bower as we build for our own folk on the night of 
the wedding." 

Ralph yeasaid this, and thanked them. So then 
the elder cried : " Up, my sons, and show your deft- 
ness to these dear friends ! " Then the young men 
arose, naught loth, and when they had hoppled their 
oxen and taken the burdens from off them, they all 
went down the meadow together into the chestnut 
grove, and they fell to and cut willow boughs, and 
such-like wood, and drave stakes and wove the twigs 
together ; and Ralph and Ursula worked with them 
as they bade, and they were all very merry together : 
because for those two wanderers it was a great delight 
to see the faces of the children of men once more 
after so many months, and to hold converse with 
them ; while for their part the young men marvelled 
at Ursula's beauty, and the pith and goodliness of 
Ralph. 

By then it was nigh evening they had made a very 

6? 



goodly wattled bower, and roofed it with the skins 
that were in the cave, and hung it about with gar- 
lands, and strewn flowers on the floor thereof. And 
when all was done they went back to the toft before 
the rock-chamber, where the elder had opened the 
loads, and had taken meal thence, and was making 
cakes at the fire. And there was wine there in well- 
hooped kegs, and wooden cups fairly carven, and 
raiment of fine white wool for those twain, broidered 
in strange but beauteous fashion with the feathers of 
bright- hued birds. 

So then were those twain arrayed for the bridal ; 
and the meat was dight and the cups filled, and they 
sat down on the grassy toft a little before sunset, and 
feasted till the night was come, and was grown all 
light with the moon ; and then Ralph rose up, and 
took Ursula's hand, and they stood before the elder, 
and bade him and the young men bear witness that 
they were wedded : then those twain kissed the new- 
comers and departed to their bridal bower hand in 
hand through the freshness of the night. 



CHAPTER XV. THEY COME TO THE 
LAND OF THE INNOCENT FOLK. 

WHEN it was morning they speedily gat 
them ready for the road, whereas they had 
little to take with them ; so they departed 
joyously, howbeit both Ralph and Ursula felt rather 
love than loathing for their winter abode. The day 
was yet young when they went their ways. Their 
horses and all their gear were a great wonder to the 
young men, for they had seen no such beasts before : 
but the elder said that once in his young days he had 
led a man to the Well who was riding a horse and 
was clad in knightly array. 

So they went by ways which were nowise dreadful, 
68 



though they were void of men-folk, and in three days' 
time they were come out of the mountains, and in 
three more the said mountains were to behold but a 
cloud behind them, and the land was grown goodly, 
with fair valleys and little hills, though still they saw 
no men ; and forsooth they went leisurely, for oxen 
are but slow-going nags. But when they were gone 
eight days from the Valley of Sweet-chestnuts, they 
came across a flock of uncouth-looking sheep on a 
green hill-side, and four folk shepherding them, two 
carles to wit, and two queans, like to their way-leaders, 
but scarce so goodly, and ruder of raiment. These 
men greeted them kindly, and yet with more worship 
than fellowship, and they marvelled exceedingly at 
their horses and weapons. Thence they passed on, 
and the next day came into a wide valley, well-grassed 
and watered, and wooded here and there ; moreover 
there were cots scattered about it. There and thence- 
forth they met men a many, both carles and queans, 
and sheep and neat in plenty, and they passed by 
garths wherein the young corn was waxing, and vine- 
yards on the hillsides, where the vines were beginning 
to grow green. The land seemed as goodly as might 
be, and all the folk they met were kind, if somewhat 
over reverent. 

On the evening of that day they came into the 
town of that folk, which was but simple, wholly un- 
fenced for war, and the houses but low, and not great. 
Yet was there naught of filth or famine, nor any 
poverty or misery ; and the people were merry- faced 
and well-liking, and clad goodly after their fashion in 
white woollen cloth or frieze. All the people of the 
town were come forth to meet them, for runners had 
gone before them, and they stood on either side of the 
way murmuring greetings, and with their heads bent 
low in reverence. 

Thus rode Ralph and Ursula up to the door of the 
69 



Temple, or Mote-house, or Guest-house, for it was all 
these, a house great, and as fair as they knew how to 
make it. Before the door thereof were standing the 
elders of the Folk; and when they drew rein, the 
eldest and most reverend of these came forth and 
spake in a cheerful voice, yet solemnly : <c Welcome 
and thrice welcome to the Seekers after length of days 
and happy times, and the loving-kindness of the 
Folks of the Earth!" 

Then all the elders gathered about them, and bade 
them light down and be at rest amongst them, and 
they made much of them and brought them into the 
Mote-house, wherein were both women and men fair 
and stately, and the men took Ralph by the hand and 
the women Ursula, and brought them into chambers 
where they bathed them and did off their wayfaring 
raiment, and clad them in white woollen gowns of 
web exceeding fine, and fragrant withal. Then they 
crowned them with flowers, and led them back into 
the hall, whereas now was much folk gathered, and 
they set them down on a dais as though they had been 
kings, or rather gods; and when they beheld them 
there so fair and lovely, they cried out for joy of 
them, and bade them hail oft and oft. 

There then were they feasted by that kind folk, 
and when meat was done certain youths and maidens 
fell to singing songs very sweetly ; and the words of 
the songs were simple and harmless, and concerning 
the fairness of the earth and the happy loves of the 
creatures that dwell therein. 

Thereafter as the night aged, they were shown to a 
sleeping chamber, which, albeit not richly decked, or 
plenished with precious things, was most dainty clean, 
and sweet smelling, and strewn with flowers, so that the 
night was sweet to them in a chamber of love. 



70 



CHAPTER XVI. THEY COME TO THE 
HOUSE OF THE SORCERESS. 

ON the morrow the kind people delayed them 
little, though they sorrowed for their depar- 
ture, and before noon were their old way- 
leaders ready for them ; and the old man and his two 
grandsons (for such they were) were much honoured 
of the simple people for their way- leading of the Hea- 
venly Folk ; for so they called Ralph and Ursula. 
So they gat them to the way in suchlike guise as before, 
only they had with them five sumpter oxen instead of 
two ; for the old man told them that not only was 
their way longer, but also they must needs pass through 
a terrible waste, wherein was naught for their avail, 
neither man, nor beast, nor herb. Even so they found 
it as he said ; for after the first day's ride from the 
town they came to the edge of this same waste, and 
on the fourth day were deep in the heart of it: a 
desert it was, rather rocky and stony and sandy than 
mountainous, though they had hills to cross also : 
withal there was but little water there, and that foul and 
stinking. Long lasted this waste, and Ralph thought 
indeed that it had been hard to cross, had not their 
way-leaders been ; therefore he made marks and signs 
by the wayside, and took note of the bearings of rocks 
and mounds against the day of return. 

Twelve days they rode this waste, and on the 
thirteenth it began to mend somewhat, and there was 
a little grass, and sweet waters, and they saw ahead the 
swelling hills of a great woodland, albeit they had 
to struggle through marshland and low scrubby thicket 
for a day longer, or ever they got to the aforesaid 
trees, which at first were naught but pines ; but these 
failed in a while, and they rode a grass waste nearly 
treeless, but somewhat well watered, where they gat 



them good store of venison. Thereafter they came 
on woods of oak and sweet-chestnut, with here and 
there a beech- wood. 

Long and long they rode the woodland, but it was 
hard on May when they entered it, and it was pleasant 
therein, and what with one thing, what with another, 
they had abundant livelihood there. Yet was June at 
its full when at last they came within sight of the 
House of the Sorceress, on the hottest of a fair after- 
noon. And it was even as Ralph had seen it pictured 
in the arras of the hall of the Castle of Abundance ; a 
little house built after the fashion of houses in his own 
land of the west ; the thatch was trim, and the win- 
dows and doors were unbroken, and the garth was 
whole, and the goats feeding therein, and the wheat 
was tall and blossoming in the little closes, whereas he 
had looked to see all broken down and wild, and as to 
the house, a mere grass-grown heap, or at the most a 
broken gable fast crumbling away. 

Then waxed his heart sore with the memory of that 
passed time, and the sweetness of his short-lived love , 
though he refrained him all he might : yet forsooth 
Ursula looked on him anxiously, so much his face was 
changed by the thoughts of his heart. 

But the elder of the way-leaders saw that he was 
moved, and deemed that he was wondering at that 
house so trim and orderly amidst the wildwood, so 
he said : c< Here also do we after our behest to that 
marvellous and lovely Lady, that we suffer not this 
house to go to ruin : ever are some of our folk here, 
and every year about this season we send two or more 
to take the places of those who have dwelt in the 
House year-long : so ever is there someone to keep 
all things trim. But as to strangers, I have never in 
my life seen any Seeker of the Well herein, save once, 
and that was an old hoar man like to me, save that he 
was feebler in all wise than I be.*' 

72 



Now Ralph heard him talking, yet noted his words 
but little ; for it was with him as if all the grief of 
heart which he had penned back for so long a while 
swelled up within him and burst its bounds ; and he 
turned towards Ursula and their eyes met, and she 
looked shy and anxious on him and he might no 
longer refrain himself, but put his hands to his face 
(for they had now drawn rein at the garth-gate) and 
brake out a weeping, and wept long for the friend 
whose feet had worn that path so often, and whose 
heart, though she were dead, had brought them thither 
for their thriving; and for love and sorrow of him 
Ursula wept also. 

But the old man and his grandsons turned their 
heads away from his weeping, and got off their horses, 
and went up to the house-door, whereby were now 
standing a carle and a quean of their people. But 
Ralph slowly gat off his horse and stood by Ursula 
who was on the ground already, but would not touch 
her, for he was ashamed. But she looked on him kindly 
and said : " Dear friend, there is no need for shame ; 
for though I be young, I know how grievous it is 
when the dead that we have loved come across our 
ways, and we may not speak to them, nor they to us. 
So I will but bid thee be comforted and abide in thy 
love for the living and the dead." His tears brake out 
again at that word, for he was but young, and for a 
while there was a lull in the strife that had beset his 
days. But after a little he looked up, and dashed the 
tears from his eyes and smiled on Ursula and said: 
" The tale she told me of this place, the sweetness of 
it came back upon me, and I might not forbear." She 
said : " O friend, thou art kind, and I love thee." 

So then they joined hands and went through the 
garth together, and up to the door, where stood the 
wardens, who, when they saw them turning thither, 
came speedily down the path to them, and would 

73 



have knelt in worship to them ; but they would not 
suffer it, but embraced and kissed them, and thanked 
them many times for their welcome. The said 
wardens, both carle and quean, were goodly folk of 
middle age, stalwart, and kind of face. 

So then they went into the house together, and 
entered into the self-same chamber, where of old the 
Lady of Abundance had sickened for fear of the 
Sorceress sitting naked at her spell-work. 

Great joy they made together, and the wardens set 
meat and drink before the guests, and they ate and 
drank and were of good cheer. But the elder who had 
brought them from Chestnut-dale said: <c Dear friends, 
I have told you that these two young men are my 
grand-children, and they are the sons of this man and 
woman whom here ye see ; for the man is my son. 
And so it is, that amongst Us the care of the Quest of 
the Well at the World's End hath for long been the 
heritage of our blood, going with us from father to 
son. Therefore is it naught wonderful, though I have 
been sundry times at this house, and have learned 
about the place all that may be learned. For my 
father brought me hither when I was yet a boy ; that 
time it was that I saw the last man of whom we know 
for sure that he drank of the Water of the Well, and 
he was that old hoar man like unto me, but, as I said, 
far weaker in all wise ; but when he came back to us 
from the Well he was strong and stalwart, and a 
better man than I am now ; and I heard him tell his 
name to my father, that he was called the Sage of 
Swevenham." 

Ralph looked on Ursula and said : " Yea, father, 
and it was through him that we had our lore concern- 
ing the way hither ; and it was he that bade us abide 
your coming in the rock-house of the Vale of Sweet- 
chestnuts." 

" Then he is alive still," said the elder. Said Ralph : 
74 



c< Yea, and as fair and strong an old man as ye may 
lightly see." " Yea, yea," said the elder, " and yet 
fifty years ago his course seemed run." 

Then said Ralph : u Tell me, father, have none of 
your own folk sought to the Well at the World's 
End ? " " Nay, none," said the elder. Said Ralph : 
" That is strange, whereas ye are so nigh thereto, and 
have such abundant lore concerning the way." 

" Son," said the elder, Cf true it is that the water of 
that Well shall cause a man to thrive in all ways, and 
to live through many generations of men, maybe, in 
honour and good-liking; but it may not keep any 
man alive for ever; for so have the Gods given us the 
gift of death lest we weary of life. Now our folk live 
well and hale, and without the sickness and pestilence, 
such as I have heard oft befall folk in other lands: 
even as I heard the Sage of Swevenham say, and I 
wondered at his words. Of strife and of war also we 
know naught : nor do we desire aught which we may 
not easily attain to. Therefore we live long, and we 
fear the Gods if we should strive to live longer, lest 
they should bring upon us war and sickness, and over- 
weening desire, and weariness of life. Moreover it 
is little like that all of us should seek to the Well at 
the World's End; and those few that sought and 
drank should be stronger and wiser than the others, 
and should make themselves earthly gods, and, 
maybe, should torment the others of us and make 
their lives a very burden to be borne. Of such 
matters are there tales current amongst us that so it 
hath been of yore and in other lands ; and ill it were 
if such times came back upon us." 

Ralph hung his head and was silent ; for the joy of 
the Quest seemed dying out as the old man's words 
dropped slowly from his mouth. But he smiled upon 
Ralph and went on : " But for you, guests, it is other- 
wise, for ye of the World beyond the Mountains are 

75 ' 



stronger and more godlike than we, as all tales tell ; 
and ye wear away your lives desiring that which ye 
may scarce get ; and ye set your hearts on high things, 
desiring to be masters of the very Gods. Therefore 
ye know sickness and sorrow, and oft ye die before 
your time, so that ye must depart and leave undone 
things which ye deem ye were born to do ; which to 
all men is grievous. And because of all this ye desire 
healing and thriving, whether good come of it, or ill. 
Therefore ye do but right to seek to the Well at the 
World's End, that ye may the better accomplish that 
which behoveth you, and that ye may serve your fellows 
and deliver them from the thralldom of those that be 
strong and unwise and unkind, of whom we have heard 
strange tales." 

Ralph reddened as he spake, and Ursula looked on 
him anxiously, but that talk dropped for the present, 
and they fell to talking of lighter and more familiar 
matters. 

Thereafter they wandered about the woods with the 
wardens and the way-leaders, and the elder brought 
them to the ancient altar in the wood whereon the 
Sorceress had offered up the goat ; and the howe of 
the woman dight with the necklace of the Quest whom 
the Lady found dead in the snow ; and the place nigh 
the house where the Sorceress used to torment her thrall 
that was afterwards the Lady of Abundance ; yea, and 
they went further afield till they came to the Vale of 
Lore, and the Heath above it where they met, the 
King's Son and the Lady. All these and other places 
were now become as hallowed ground to the Innocent 
People, and to Ralph no less. In the house, moreover, 
was a fair ark wherein they kept matters which had 
belonged to the Lady, as her shoes and her smock, 
wrapped in goodly cloth amidst well-smelling herbs ; 
and these things they worshipped as folk do with 
relics of the saints. In another ark also they showed 



the seekers a book wherein was written lore concern- 
ing the Well, and the way thereto. But of this book 
had the Sage forewarned Ralph and his mate, and had 
bidden them look to it that they should read in it, and 
no otherwhere than at that ancient altar in the wood, 
they two alone, and clad in such-like gear as they wore 
when they hearkened to his reading by his hermitage. 
And so it was that they found the due raiment in the 
ark along with the book. Therefore day after day 
betimes in the morning they bore the said book to the 
altar and read therein, till they had learned much 
wisdom. 

Thus they did for eight days, and on the ninth they 
rested and were merry with their hosts : but on the 
tenth day they mounted their horses and said farewell, 
and departed by the ways they had learned of, they 
two alone. And they had with them bread and meal, 
as much as they might bear, and water-skins moreover, 
that they might fill them at the last sweet water before 
they came to the waterless desert. 



CHAPTER XVII. THEY COME THROUGH 
THE WOODLAND TO THE THIRSTY 
DESERT. 

SO they ride their ways, and when they were come 
well into the wildwood past the house, and had 
spoken but few words to each other, Ralph put 
forth his hand, and stayed Ursula, and they gat off 
their horses under a great-limbed oak, and did off their 
armour, and sat down on the green-sward there, and 
loved each other dearly, and wept for joy of their pain 
and travail and love. And afterwards, as they sat side 
by side leaning up against the great oak-bole, Ralph 
spake and said : " Now are we two once again all 
alone in the uttermost parts of the earth, and belike 
we are not very far from the Well at the World's 

77 



End ; and now I have bethought me that if we gain 
that which we seek for, and bear back our lives to our 
own people, the day may come when we are grown 
old, for as young as we may seem, that we shall be as 
lonely then as we are this hour, and that the folk round 
about us shall be to us as much and no more than these 
trees and the wild things that dwell amongst them." 

She looked on him and laughed as one over-happy, 
and said : c< Thou runnest forward swiftly to meet 
trouble, beloved! But I say that well will it be in 
those days if I love the folk then as well as now I love 
these trees and the wild things whose house they are." 

And she rose up therewith and threw her arms about 
the oak-bole and kissed its ruggedness, while Ralph as 
he lay kissed the sleekness of her feet. And there 
came a robin hopping over the leaves anigh them, for 
in that wood most of the creatures, knowing not man, 
were tame to him, and feared the horses of those 
twain more than their riders. And now as Ursula 
knelt to embrace Ralph with one hand, she held out 
the other to the said robin who perched on her wrist, 
and sat there as a hooded falcon had done, and fell to 
whistling his sweet notes, as if he were a- talking to 
those new-comers: then Ursula gave him a song- 
reward of their broken meat, and he flew up and 
perched on her shoulder, and nestled up against her 
cheek, and she laughed happily and said : " Lo you, 
sweet, have not the wild things understood my words, 
and sent this fair messenger to foretell us all good ? " 

cc It is good," said Ralph laughing, " yet the oak-tree 
hath not spoken yet, despite of all thy kissing : and 
lo there goes thy friend the robin, now thou hast no 
more meat to give him." 

"He is flying towards the Well at the World's 
End," she said, " and biddeth us onward : let us to 
horse and hasten : for if thou wilt have the whole 
truth concerning my heart, it is this, that some chance- 

78 



hap may yet take thee from me ere thou hast drunk 
of the waters of the Well." 

"Yea," said Ralph, u and in the innermost of my heart 
lieth the fear that mayhappen there is no Well, and 
no healing in it if we find it, and that death, and the 
backward way may yet sunder us. This is the worst 
of my heart, and evil is my coward fear." 

But she cast her arms about him and kissed and 
caressed him, and cried out: "Yea, then fair have 
been the days of our journeying, and fair this hour of 
the green oak ! And bold and true thine heart that 
hath led thee thus far, and won thee thy desire of my 
love." 

So then they armed them, and mounted their horses 
and set forward. They lived well while they were in 
the wood, but on the third day they came to where it 
thinned and at last died out into a stony waste like 
unto that which they had passed through before they 
came to the House of the Sorceress, save that this lay 
in ridges as the waves of a great sea ; and these same 
ridges they were bidden to cross over at their highest, 
lest they should be bewildered in a maze of little hills 
and dales leading no whither. 

So they entered on this desert, having filled their 
water-skins at a clear brook, whereat they rejoiced 
when they found that the face of the wilderness was 
covered with a salt scurf, and that naught grew there 
save a sprinkling of small sage bushes. 

Now on the second day of their riding this ugly 
waste, as they came up over the brow of one of these 
stony ridges, Ralph the far-sighted cried out suddenly : 
" Hold ! for I see a man weaponed." 

" Where is he ? " quoth Ursula, " and what is he 
about ? " Said Ralph : " He is up yonder on the 
swell of the next ridge, and by seeming is asleep lean- 
ing against a rock." 

Then he bent the Turk bow and set an arrow on 

79 



the string and they went on warily. When they were 
down at the foot of the ridge Ralph hailed the man 
with a lusty cry, but gat no answer of him ; so they 
went on up the bent, till Ralph said : " Now I can 
see his face under his helm, and it is dark and the eyes 
are hollow : I will off horse and go up to him afoot, 
but do thou, beloved, sit still in thy saddle/' 

But when he had come nigher, he turned and cried 
out to her : " The man is dead, come anigh." So she 
went up to him and dismounted, and they both 
together stood over the man, who was lying up against 
a big stone like one at rest. How long he had lain 
there none knows but God ; for in the saltness of the 
dry desert the flesh had dried on his bones without 
corrupting, and was as hardened leather. He was in 
full armour of a strange and ancient fashion, and his 
sword was girt to his side, neither was there any sign 
of a wound about him. Under a crag anigh him they 
found his horse, dead and dry like to himself; and a 
little way over the brow of the ridge another horse in 
like case ; and close by him a woman, whose raiment 
had not utterly perished, nor her hair : there were gold 
rings on her arms, and her shoes were done with gold : 
she had a knife stuck in her breast, with her hand still 
clutching the handle thereof; so that it seemed that 
she had herself given herself death. 

Ralph and Ursula buried these two with the heap- 
ing of stones and went their ways ; but some two 
miles thence they came upon another dead man-at- 
arms, and near him an old man unweaponed, and they 
heaped stones on them. 

Thereabout night overtook them, and it was dark, 
so they lay down in the waste, and comforted each 
other, and slept two or three hours, but arose with the 
first glimmer of dawn, and mounted and rode forth 
onward, that they might the sooner be out of that 
deadly desert, for fear clung to their hearts, 

80 



This day, forsooth, they found so many dead folk, 
that they might not stay to bury them, lest they them- 
selves should come to lie there lacking burial. So 
they made all the way they might, and rode on some 
hours by starlight after the night was come, for it was 
clear and cold. So that at last they were so utterly 
wearied that they lay down amongst those dead folk, 
and slept soundly. 

On the morrow morn Ralph awoke and saw Ursula 
sleeping peacefully as he deemed, and he looked about 
on the dreary desert and its dead men and saw no end 
to it, though they lay on the top of one of those stony 
bents; and he said softly to himself: "Will it end 
at all then ? Surely all this people of the days gone 
by were Seekers of the Well as we be ; and have they 
belike turned back from somewhere further on, and 
might not escape the desert despite of all ? Shall we 
turn now : shall we turn ? surely we might get into 
the kindly wood from here/* 

So he spake; but Ursula sat up (for she was not 
asleep) and said: "The perils of the waste being 
abundant and exceeding hard to face, would not the 
Sage or his books have told us of the most deadly ? " 
Said Ralph : " Yet here are all these dead, and we 
were not told of them ; nevertheless we have seen the 
token on the rocks oft-times yesterday, so we are yet 
in the road, unless all this hath been but a snare and 
a betrayal." 

She shook her head, and was silent a little; then 
she said : " Ralph, my lad, didst thou see this token 
(and she set hand to the beads about her neck) on any 
of those dead folk yesterday ? " " Nay/' said Ralph, 
" though sooth to say I looked for it." <c And I in 
likewise," she said ; "for indeed I had misgivings as 
the day grew old ; but now I say, let us on in the 
faith of that token and the kindness of the Sage, and 
the love of the Innocent People ; yea, and thy luck, 

II. 8l G 



lad of the green fields far away, that hath brought 
thee unscathed so far from Upmeads." 

So they mounted and rode forth, and saw more and 
more of the dead folk ; and ever and anon they looked 
to them to note if they wore the beads like to them, 
but saw none so dight. Then Ursula said : " Yea, 
why should the Sage and the books have told us aught 
of these dead bodies, that are but as the plenishing 
of the waste ; like to the flowers that are cast down 
before the bier of a saint on a holy-day to be trodden 
under foot by the churls and the vicars of the close. 
Forsooth had they been alive now, with swords to smite 
withal, and hands to drag us into captivity, it had been 
another matter : but against these I feel bold." 

Ralph sighed, and said : C Yea, but even if we die 
not in the waste, yet this is piteous; so many lives 
passed away, so many hopes slain." 

" Yea,*' she said ; " but do not folk die there in the 
world behind us ? I have seen sights far worser than 
this at Utterbol, little while as I was there. Moreover 

1 can note that this army of dead men has not come 
all in one day or one year, but in a long, long while, 
by one and two and three; for hast thou not noted 
that their raiment and wargear both, is of many fashions, 
and some much more perished than other, long as 
things last in this Dry Waste ? I say that men die as 
in the world beyond, but here we see them as they lie 
dead, and have lain for so long." 

He said : c< I fear neither the Waste nor the dead 
men, if thou fearest not, beloved : but I lament for 
these poor souls." 

" And I also," said she ; " therefore let us on, that 
we may come to those whose grief we may heal." 



82 



CHAPTER XVIII. THEY COME TO THE 
DRY TREE. 

PRESENTLY as they rode they had before them 
one of the greatest of those land- waves, and they 
climbed it slowly, going afoot and leading their 
horses ; but when they were but a little way from the 
brow they saw, over a gap thereof, something, as it 
were huge horns rising up into the air beyond the 
crest of the ridge. So they marvelled, and drew their 
swords, and held them still awhile, misdoubting if this 
were perchance some terrible monster of the waste ; 
but whereas the thing moved not at all, they plucked 
up heart and fared on. 

So came they to the brow and looked over it into a 
valley, about which on all sides went the ridge, save 
where it was broken down into a narrow pass on the 
further side, so that the said valley was like to one of 
those theatres of the ancient Roman Folk, whereof are 
some to be seen in certain lands. Neither did those 
desert benches lack their sitters ; for all down the 
sides of the valley sat or lay children of men ; some 
women, but most men-folk, of whom the more part 
were weaponed, and some with their drawn swords in 
their hands. Whatever semblance of moving was in 
them was when the eddying wind of the valley stirred 
the rags of their raiment, or the long hair of the 
women. But a very midmost of this dreary theatre 
rose up a huge and monstrous tree, whose topmost 
branches were even the horns which they had seen 
from below the hill's brow. Leafless was that tree 
and lacking of twigs, and its bole upheld but some 
fifty of great limbs, and as they looked on it, they 
doubted whether it were not made by men's hands 
rather than grown up out of the earth. All round 
about the roots of it was a pool of clear water, that 
cast back the image of the valley-side and the bright 

83 



sky of the desert, as though it had been a mirror of 
burnished steel. The limbs of that tree were all 
behung with blazoned shields and knight's helms, and 
swords, and spears, and axes, and hauberks; and it 
rose up into the air some hundred feet above the flat 
of the valley. 

For a while they looked down silently on to this 
marvel, then from both their lips at once came the cry, 
THE DRY TREE. Then Ralph thrust his sword 
back into his sheath and said : <c Meseems I must 
needs go down amongst them ; there is naught to do 
us harm here; for all these are dead like the others 
that we saw." 

Ursula turned to him with burning cheeks and 
sparkling eyes, and said eagerly : " Yea, yea, let us go 
down, else might we chance to miss something that 
we ought to wot of." 

Therewith she also sheathed her sword, and they 
went both of them down together, and that easily; 
for as aforesaid the slope was as if it had been cut 
into steps for their feet. And as they passed by the 
dead folk, for whom they had often to turn aside, they 
noted that each of the dead leathery faces was drawn 
up in a grin, as though they had died in pain, and yet 
beguiled, so that all those visages looked somewhat 
alike, as though they had all come from the workshop 
of one craftsman. 

At last Ralph and Ursula stood on the level ground 
underneath the Tree, and they looked up at the 
branches, and down to the water at their feet; and 
now it seemed to them as though the Tree had verily 
growth in it, for they beheld its roots, that they went 
out from the mound or islet of earth into the water, 
and spread abroad therein, and seemed to waver about. 
So they walked around the Tree, and looked up at 
the shields that hung on its branches, but saw no blazon 
that they knew, though they were many and diverse ; 



and the armour also and weapons were very diverse of 
fashion. 

Now when they were come back again to the place 
where they had first stayed, Ralph said : " I thirst, and 
so belike dost thou ; and here is water good and clear ; 
let us drink then, and so spare our water-skins, for 
belike the dry desert is yet long." And therewith he 
knelt down that he might take of the water in the 
hollow of his hand. But Ursula drew him back, and 
cried out in terror : " O Ralph, do it not ! Seest thou 
not this water, that although it be bright and clear, so 
that we may see all the pebbles at the bottom, yet 
nevertheless when the wind eddies about, and lifts 
the skirts of our raiment, it makes no ripple on the face 
of the pool, and doubtless it is heavy with venom ; 
and moreover there is no sign of the way hereabout, 
as at other watering-steads ; O forbear, Ralph ! " 

Then he rose up and drew back with her but 
slowly and unwillingly as she deemed ; and they stood 
together a while gazing on these marvels. But lo 
amidst of this while, there came a crow wheeling 
over the valley of the dead, and he croaked over the 
Dry Tree, and let himself drop down to the edge of 
the pool, whereby he stalked about a little after the 
manner of his kind. Then he thrust his neb into the 
water and drank, and thereafter took wing again ; but 
ere he was many feet off the ground he gave a grievous 
croak, and turning over in the air fell down stark dead 
close to the feet of those twain ; and Ralph cried out 
but spake no word with meaning therein ; then said 
Ursula : cc Yea, thus are we saved from present death." 
Then she looked in Ralph's face, and turned pale and 
said hastily: U O my friend how is it with thee?" 
But she waited not for an answer, but turned her face 
to the bent whereby they had come down, and cried 
out in a loud, shrill voice : <c O Ralph, Ralph ! look up 
yonder to the ridge whereby we left our horses ; look, 

85 



look ! there glitters a spear and stirreth ! and lo a 
helm underneath the spear : tarry not, let us save our 
horses ! " 

Then Ralph let a cry out from his mouth, and set off 
running to the side of the slope, and fell to climbing 
it with great strides, not heeding Ursula ; but she 
followed close after, and scrambled up with foot and 
hand and knee, till she stood beside him on the top, 
and he looked around wildly and cried out : " Where ! 
where are they ? " 

<c Nowhere," she said, " it was naught but my word 
to draw thee from death ; but praise be to the saints 
that thou art come alive out of the accursed valley." 

He seemed not to hearken, but turned about once, 
and beat the air with his hands, and then fell down on 
his back ; and with a great wail she cast herself upon 
him, for she deemed at first that he was dead. But 
she took a little water from one of their skins, and 
cast it into his face, and took a flask of cordial from 
her pouch, and set it to his lips, and made him drink 
somewhat thereof. So in a while he came to himself 
and opened his eyes and smiled upon her, and she 
took his head in her hands and kissed his cheek, and 
he sat up and said feebly : " Shall we not go down 
into the valley ? there is naught there to harm us." 

" We have been down there already," she said, 
(( and well it is that we are not both lying there now." 

Then he got to his feet, and stretched himself, and 
yawned like one just awakened from long sleep. But 
she said : " Let us to horse and begone ; it is early hours 
to slumber, for those that are seeking the Well at the 
World's End." 

He smiled on her again and took her hand, and she 
led him to his horse, and helped him till he was in the 
saddle, and lightly she gat a-horseback, and they rode 
away swiftly from that evil place ; and after a while 
Ralph was himself again, and remembered all that had 

86 



happened till he fell down on the brow of the ridge. 
Then he praised Ursula's wisdom and valiancy till she 
bade him forbear lest he weary her. Albeit she drew 
up close to him and kissed his face sweetly. 

CHAPTER XIX. THEY COME OUT OF THE 
THIRSTY DESERT. 

PAST the Valley of the Dry Tree they saw but 
few dead men lying about, and soon they saw 
never another : and, though the land was still 
utterly barren, and all cast up into ridges as before, 
yet the salt slime grew less and less, and before night- 
fall of that day they had done with it : and the next 
day those stony waves were lower ; and the next 
again the waste was but a swelling plain, and here and 
there they came on patches of dwarf willow, and other 
harsh and scanty herbage, whereof the horses might 
have a bait, which they sore needed, for now was their 
fodder -done: but both men and horses were sore 
athirst ; for, as carefully as they had hoarded their water, 
there was now bat little left, which they durst not 
drink till they were driven perforce, lest they should 
yet die of drought. 

They journeyed long that day, and whereas the 
moon was up at night-tide they lay not down till she 
was set ; and their resting place was by some low 
bushes, whereabout was rough grass mingled with 
willow-herb, whereby Ralph judged that they drew 
nigh to water, so or ever they slept, they and the 
horses all but emptied the water-skins. They heard 
some sort of beasts roaring in the night, but they 
were too weary to watch, and might not make a fire. 
When Ralph awoke in the morning he cried out 
that he could see the woodland ; and Ursula arose at 
his cry and looked where he pointed, and sure enough 
there were the trees on a rising ground some two miles 



ahead, and beyond them, not very far by seeming, they 
beheld the tops of great dark mountains. On either 
hand moreover, nigh on their right hand, far off on 
their left, ran a reef of rocks, so that their way seemed 
to be as between two walls. And these said reefs were 
nowise like those that they had seen of late, but black 
and, as to their matter, like to the great mountains by 
the rock of the Fighting Man : but as the reefs ran 
eastward they seemed to grow higher. 

Now they mounted their horses at once and rode 
on ; and the beasts were as eager as they were, and be- 
like smelt the water. So when they had ridden but 
three miles, they saw a fair little river before them 
winding about exceedingly, but flowing eastward on 
the whole. So they spurred on with light hearts and 
presently were on the banks of the said river, and its 
waters were crystal-clear, though its sands were black : 
and the pink-blossomed willow-herb was growing 
abundantly on the sandy shores. Close to the water 
was a black rock, as big as a man, whereon was' graven 
the sign of the way ; so they knew that there was no 
evil in the water, wherefore they drank their fill and 
watered their horses abundantly, and on the further 
bank was there abundance of good grass. So when 
they had drunk their fill, for the pleasure of the cool 
water they waded the ford barefoot, and it was scarce 
above Ursula's knee. Then they had great joy to lie 
on the soft grass and eat their meat, while the horses 
tore eagerly at the herbage close to them. So when 
they had eaten, they rested awhile, but before they went 
further they despoiled them, one after other, and bathed 
in a pool of the river to wash the foul wilderness off 
them. Then again they rested and let the horses yet 
bite the grass, and departed not from that pleasant place 
till it was two hours after noon. As they were lying 
there Ralph said he could hear a great roar like the 
sound of many waters, but very far off : but to Ursula 

88 



* 



it seemed naught but the wind waxing in the boughs 
of the woodland anigh them. 

CHAPTER XX. THEY COME TO THE 
OCEAN SEA. 

BEING come to the wood they went not very far 
into it that day, for they were minded to rest 
them after the weariness of the wilderness : they 
feasted on a hare which Ralph shot, and made a big 
fire to keep off evil beasts, but none came nigh them, 
though they heard the voices of certain beasts as the 
night grew still. To be short, they slept far into the 
morrow's morn, and then, being refreshed, and their 
horses also, they rode strongly all day, and found the 
wood to be not very great ; for before sunset they 
were come to its outskirts, and the mountains lay 
before them. These were but little like to that huge 
wall they had passed through on their way to Chest- 
nut-dale, being rather great hills than mountains, grass- 
grown, and at their feet somewhat wooded, and by 
seeming not over hard to pass over. 

The next day they entered them by a pass marked 
with the token, which led them about by a winding 
way till they were on the side of the biggest fell of 
all ; so there they rested that night in a fair little 
hollow or dell in the mountain-side. There in the 
stillness of the night both Ursula, as well as Ralph, 
heard that roaring of a great water, and they said to 
each other that it must be the voice of the Sea, and 
they rejoiced thereat, for they had learned by the Sage 
and his books that they must needs come to the verge 
of the Ocean-Sea, which girdles the earth about. So 
they arose betimes on the morrow, and set to work to 
climb the mountain, going mostly a-foot ; and the way 
was long, but not craggy or exceeding steep, so that 
in five hours' time they were at the mountain-top, and 



coming over the brow beheld beneath them fair green 
slopes besprinkled with trees, and beyond them, some 
three or four miles away, the blue landless sea, and on 
either hand of them was the sea also, so that they were 
nigh-hand at the ending of a great ness, and there was 
naught beyond it ; and naught to do if they missed 
the Well, but to turn back by the way they had come. 

Now when they saw this they were exceedingly 
moved, and they looked on one another, and each saw 
that the other was pale, with glistening eyes, since 
they were come to the very point of their doom, and 
that it should be seen whether there were no such thing 
as the Well in all the earth, but that they had been 
chasing a fair-hued cloud ; or else their Quest should 
be achieved and they should have the world before 
them, and they happy and mighty, and of great worship 
amidst all men. 

Little they tarried, but gat them down the steep of 
the mountain, and so lower and lower till they were 
come to ground nigh level ; and then at last it was 
but thus, that without any great rock-wall or girdle of 
marvellous and strange land, there was an end of earth, 
with its grass and trees and streams, and a beginning 
of the ocean, which stretched away changeless, and it 
might be for ever. Where the land ended there was 
but a cliff of less than an hundred feet above the 
eddying of the sea ; and on the very point of the ness 
was a low green toft with a square stone set atop of 
it, whereon as they drew nigh they saw the token 
graven, yea on each face thereof. 

Then they went along the edge of the cliff a mile 
on each side of the said toft, and then finding naught 
else to note, naught save the grass and the sea, they 
came back to that place of the token, and sat down on 
the grass of the toft. 

It was now evening, and the sun was setting behind 
them, but they could behold a kind of stair cut in the 

90 



side of the cliff, and on the first step whereof was the 
token done ; wherefore they knew that they were bidden 
to go down by the said stair ; but it seemed to lead no 
whither, save straight into the sea. And whiles it 
came into Ralph's mind that this was naught but a 
mock, as if to bid the hapless seekers cast themselves 
down from the earth, and be done with it for ever. 
But in any case they might not try the adventure of 
that stair by the failing light, and with the night long 
before them. So when they had hoppled their horses, 
and left them to graze at their will on the sweet grass 
of the meadow, they laid them down behind the green 
toft, and, being forwearied, it was no long time ere 
they twain slept fast at that uttermost end of the 
world. 



CHAPTER XXI. NOW THEY DRINK OF 
THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END. 

RALPH awoke from some foolish morning 
dream of Upmeads, wondering where he was, 
or what familiar voice had cried out his name : 
then he raised himself on his elbow, and saw Ursula 
standing before him with flushed face and sparkling 
eyes, and she was looking out seaward, while she called 
on his name. So he sprang up and strove with the 
slumber that still hung about him, and as his eyes 
cleared he looked down, and saw that the sea, which 
last night had washed the face of the cliff, had now 
ebbed far out, and left bare betwixt the billows and 
the cliff some half mile of black sand, with rocks of the 
like hue rising out of it here and there. But just below 
the place where they stood, right up against the cliff, 
was builded by man's hand of huge stones a garth or 
pound, the wall whereof was some seven feet high, and 
the pound within the wall of forty feet space endlong 
and overthwart ; and the said pound was filled with 

91 



the waters of a spring that came forth from the face 
of the cliff as they deemed, though from above they 
might not see the issue thereof; but the water ran 
seaward from the pound by some way unseen, and 
made a wide stream through the black sand of the 
foreshore : but ever the great basin filled somewhat 
faster than it voided, so that it ran over the lip on all 
sides, making a thin veil over the huge ashlar-stones 
of the garth. The day was bright and fair with no 
wind, save light airs playing about from the westward 
ort, and all things gleamed and glittered in the sun. 

Ralph stood still a moment, and then stretched 
abroad his arms, and with a great sob cast them 
round about the body of his beloved, and strained her 
to his bosom as he murmured about her, THE WELL 
AT THE WORLD'S END. But she wept for 
joy as she fawned upon him, and let her hands beat 
upon his body. 

But when they were somewhat calmed of their 
ecstasy of joy, they made ready to go down by that 
rocky stair. And first they did off their armour and 
other gear, and when they were naked they did on the 
hallowed raiment which they had out of the ark in the 
House of the Sorceress ; and so clad gat them down 
the rock-hewn stair, Ralph going first, lest there should 
be any broken place ; but naught was amiss with 
those hard black stones, and they came safely to a 
level place of the rock, whence they could see the face 
of the cliff, and how the waters of the Well came 
gushing forth from a hollow therein in a great swelling 
wave as clear as glass ; and the sun glistened in it and 
made a foam-bow about its edges. But above the 
issue of the waters the black rock had been smoothed 
by man's art, and thereon was graven the Sword and 
the Bough, and above it these words, to wit : 

YE WHO HAVE COME A LONG WAY TO 
LOOK UPON ME, DRINK OF ME, IF YE 

92 



DEEM THAT YE BE STRONG ENOUGH 
IN DESIRE TO BEAR LENGTH OF DAYS : 
OR ELSE DRINK NOT; BUT TELL YOUR 
FRIENDS AND THE KINDREDS OF THE 
EARTH HOW YE HAVE SEEN A GREAT 
MARVEL. 

So they looked long and wondered ; and Ursula 
said : <c Deemest thou, my friend, that any have come 
thus far and forborne to drink ?" 

Said Ralph : cc Surely not even the exceeding wise 
might remember the bitterness of his wisdom as he 
stood here." 

Then he looked on her and his face grew bright 
beyond measure, and cried out : " O love, love! why 
tarry we ? For yet I fear lest we be come too late, 
and thou die before mine eyes ere yet thou hast 
drunken." 

" Yea," she said, cc and I also fear for thee, though 
thy face is ruddy and thine eyes sparkle, and thou art 
as lovely as the Captain of the Lord's hosts." 

Then she laughed, and her laughter was as silver 
bells rung tunably, and she said : " But where is the 
cup for the drinking ? " 

But Ralph looked on the face of the wall, and about 
the height of his hand saw square marks thereon, as 
though there were an ambrye ; and amidst the square 
was a knop of latten, all green with the weather and 
the salt spray. So Ralph set his hand to the knop 
and drew strongly, and lo it was a door made of a 
squared stone hung on brazen hinges, and it opened 
easily to him, and within was a cup of goldsmith's 
work, with the sword and the bough done thereon ; 
and round about the rim was writ this posey : ct THE 
STRONG OF HEART SHALL DRINK FROM 
ME." So Ralph took it and held it aloft so that its 
pure metal flashed in the sun, and he said : " This is 
for thee, Sweetling." 

93 



" Yea, and for thee," she said. 

Now that level place, or bench- table went up to the 
very gushing and green bow of the water, so Ralph 
took Ursula's hand and led her along, she going a 
little after him, till he was close to the Well, and stood 
amidst the spray-bow thereof, so that he looked verily 
like one of the painted angels on the choir wall of 
St. Laurence of Upmeads. Then he reached forth 
his hand and thrust the cup into the water, holding it 
stoutly because the gush of the stream was strong, so 
that the water of the Well splashed all over him, 
wetting Ursula's face and breast withal : and he felt 
that the water was sweet without any saltness of the 
sea. But he turned to Ursula and reached out the 
full cup to her, and said : " Sweetling, call a health 
over the cup ! " 

She took it and said : " To thy life, beloved ! " and 
drank withal, and her eyes looked out of the cup the 
while, like a child's when he drinketh. Then she 
gave him the cup again and said : " Drink, and tarry 
not, lest; thou die and I live." 

Then Ralph plunged the cup into the waters again, 
and he held the cup aloft, and cried out : " To the Earth, 
and the World of Manfolk ! " and therewith he drank. 

For a minute then they clung together within the 
spray-bow of the Well, and then she took his hand 
and led him back to the midst of the bench-table, and 
he put the cup into the ambrye, and shut it up 
again, and then they sat them down on the widest of 
the platform under the shadow of a jutting rock; for 
the sun was hot; and therewithal a sweet weariness 
began to steal over them, though there was speech 
betwixt them for a little, and Ralph said : Cf How is 
it with thee, beloved ? " 

"O well indeed," she said. 

Quoth he : " And how tasteth to thee the water of 
the Well ? " 

94 



Slowly she spake and sleepily : c< It tasted good, and 
as if thy love were blended with it." 

And she smiled in his face ; but he said : " One 
thing I wonder over : how shall we wot if we have 
drunk aright ? For whereas if we were sick or old 
and failing, or ill-liking, and were now presently healed 
of all this, and become strong and fair to look on, then 
should we know it for sure but now, though, as I 
look on thee, I behold thee the fairest of all women, 
and on thy face is no token of toil and travail, and 
the weariness of the way ; and though the heart-ache of 
loneliness and captivity, and the shame of Utterbol 
has left no mark upon thee yet hast thou not always 
been sweet to my eyes, and as sweet as might be ? 
And how then ? " . . : But he broke off and looked 
on her and she smiled upon the love in his eyes, and 
his head fell back and he slept with a calm and smiling 
face. And she leaned over him to kiss his face, but 
even therewith her own eyes closed and she laid her 
head upon his breast, and slept as peacefully as he. 

CHAPTERXXII. NOW THEY HAVE DRUNK 
AND ARE GLAD. 

LONG they slept till the shadows were falling 
from the west, and the sea was flowing fast 
again over the sands beneath them, though 
there was still a great space bare betwixt the cliff and 
the sea. Then spake Ursula as if Ralph had but just 
left speaking ; and she said : u Yea, dear lord, and I 
also say, that, lovely as thou art now, never hast thou been 
aught else but lovely to me. But tell me, hast thou had 
any scar of a hurt upon thy body ? For if now that 
were gone, surely it should be a token of the renewal 
of thy life. But if it be not gone, then there may yet be 
another token." 

Then he stood upon his feet, and she cried out : 

95 



" O but thou art fair and mighty, who now shall dare 
gainsay thee ? Who shall not long for thee ? " 

Said Ralph : " Look, love ! how the sea comes over 
the sand like the creeping of a sly wood-snake ! Shall 
we go hence and turn from the ocean-sea without 
wetting our bodies in its waters ? " 

" Let us go," she said. 

So they went down on to the level sands, and along 
the edges of the sweet- water stream that flowed from 
the Well ; and Ralph said : Beloved, I will tell thee 
of that which thou hast asked me : when I was but a 
lad of sixteen winters there rode men a-lifting into 
Upmeads, and Nicholas Longshanks, who is a wise 
man of war, gathered force and went against them, 
and I must needs ride beside him. Now we came to 
our above, and put the thieves to the road ; but in the 
hurly I got a claw from the war-beast, for the stroke 
of a sword sheared me off somewhat from my shoulder : 
belike thou hast seen the scar and loathed it." 

" It is naught loathsome," she said, cc for a lad to be 
a bold warrior, nor for a grown man to think lightly 
of the memory of death drawn near for the first time. 
Yea, I have noted it ; but let me see now what has 
befallen with it." 

As she spoke they were come to a salt pool in a 
rocky bight on their right hand, which the tide was 
filling speedily ; and Ralph spake : C See now, this is 
the bath of the water of the ocean sea." So they 
were speedily naked and playing in the water : and 
Ursula took Ralph by the arm and looked to his 
shoulder and said : " O my lad of the pale edges, 
where is gone thy glory ? There is no mark of the 
sword's pilgrimage on thy shoulder/' " Nay, none ? " 
quoth he. 

" None, none ! " she said, tc Didst thou say the very 
sooth of thy hurt in the battle, O poor lad of mine ? " 
" Yea, the sooth," said he. Then she laughed sweetly 

96 



and merrily like the chuckle of a flute over the rippling 
waters, that rose higher and higher about them, and 
she turned her eyes askance and looked adown to her 
own sleek side, and laid her hand on it and laughed 
again. Then said Ralph : " What is toward, beloved ? 
For thy laugh is rather of joy that of mirth alone." 

She said : <c O smooth-skinned warrior, O Lily and 
Rose of battle ; here on my side yesterday was the 
token of the hart's tyne that gored me when J was a 
young maiden five years ago : look now and pity the 
maiden that lay on the grass of the forest, and the 
woodman a-pas$ing by deemed her dead five years 
ago." 

Ralph stooped down as the ripple washed away 
from her, then said : " In sooth here is no mark nor 
blemish, but the best handiwork of God, as when he 
first made a woman from the side of the Ancient Father 
of the field of Damask. But lo you, love, how swift 
the tide cometh up, and I long to see thy feet on the 
green grass, and I fear the sea, lest it stir the joy over 
strongly in our hearts and we be not able to escape 
from its waves." 

So they went up from out of the water, and did on 
the hallowed raiment fragrant with strange herbs, and 
passed joyfully up the sand towards the cliff and its 
stair ; and speedily withal, for so soon as they were 
clad again, the little ripple of the sea was nigh touching 
their feet. As they went, they noted that the waters 
of the Well flowed seaward from the black-walled 
pound by three arched openings in its outer face, and 
they beheld the mason's work, how goodly it was ; for 
it was as if it had been cut out of the foot of a moun- 
tain, so well jointed were its stones, and its walls solid 
against any storm that might drive against it. 

They climbed the stair, and sat them down on the 
green grass awhile watching the ocean coming in over 
the sand and the rocks, and Ralph said : " I will tell 

n. 97 H 



thee, sweetling, that I am grown eager for the road ; 
though true it is that whiles I was down yonder 
amidst the ripple of the sea I longed for naught but 
thee, though thou wert beside me, and thy joyous 
words were as fire to the heart of my love. But now 
that I am on the green grass of the earth I called to 
mind a dream that came to me when we slept after the 
precious draught of the Well : for methought that I 
was standing before the porch of the Feast-hall of 
Upmeads and holding thine hand, and the ancient 
House spake to me with the voice of a man, greeting 
both thee and me, and praising thy goodliness and 
valiancy. Surely then it is calling me to deeds, and if 
it were but morning, as it is now drawing towards 
sunset, we would mount and be gone straightway." 

" Surely," she said, " thou hast drunk of the Well, 
and the fear of thee has already entered into the hearts 
of thy foemen far away, even as the love of thee con- 
straineth me as I lie by thy side ; but since it is even- 
ing and sunset, let it be evening, and let the morning 
see to its own matters. So now let us be pilgrims 
again, and eat the meal of pilgrims, and see to our 
horses, and then wander about this lovely wilderness 
and its green meads, where no son of man heedeth the 
wild things, till the night come, bringing to us the 
rest and the sleep of them that have prevailed over 
many troubles." 

Even so they did, and broke bread above the sea, 
and looked to their horses, and then went hand in hand 
about the goodly green bents betwixt the sea and the 
rough of the mountain ; and it was the fairest and 
softest of summer evenings ; and the deer of that 
place, both little and great, had no fear of man, but 
the hart and hind came to Ursula's hand ; and the 
thrushes perched upon her shoulder, and the hares 
gambolled together close to the feet of the twain ; so 
that it seemed to them that they had come into the 



very Garden of God ; and they forgat all the many 
miles of the waste and the mountain that lay before 
them, and they had no thought for the strife of foemen 
and the thwarting of kindred, that belike awaited them 
in their own land, but they thought of the love and 
happiness of the hour that was passing. So sweetly 
they wore through the last minutes of the day, and 
when it was as dark as it would be in that fair season, 
they lay down by the green knoll at the ending of the 
land, and were lulled to sleep by the bubbling of the 
Well at the World's End. 



99 



BOOK IV. THE ROAD HOME. 



BOOK IV. THE ROAD HOME. 

CHAPTER I. RALPH AND URSULA COME 
BACK AGAIN THROUGH THE GREAT 
MOUNTAINS. 

ON the morrow morning they armed them and 
took to their horses and departed from that 
pleasant place and climbed the mountain with- 
out weariness, and made provision of meat and drink 
for the Dry Desert, and so entered it, and journeyed 
happily with naught evil befalling them till they came 
back to the House of the Sorceress ; and of the Desert 
they made little, and the wood was pleasant to them 
after the drought of the Desert. 

But at the said House they saw those kind people, 
and they saw in their eager eyes as in a glass how they 
had been bettered by their drinking of the Well, and 
the Elder said to them : " Dear friends, there is no 
need to ask you whether ye have achieved your quest ; 
for ye, who before were lovely, are now become as the 
very Gods who rule the world. And now methinks 
we have to pray you but one thing, to wit that ye will 
not be overmuch of Gods, but will be kind and lowly 
with them that needs must worship you." 

They laughed on him for kindness* sake, and kissed 
and embraced the old man, and they thanked them all 
for their helping, and they abode with them for a 
whole day in good- will and love, and thereafter the 
carle, who was the son of the Elder, with his wife, 
bade farewell to his kinsmen, and led Ralph and 
Ursula back through the wood and over the desert 
to the town of the Innocent Folk. The said Folk 

103 



received them in all joy and triumph, and would have 
them abide there the winter over. But they prayed 
leave to depart, because their hearts were sore for 
their own land and their kindred. So they abode 
there but two days, and on the third day were led 
away by a half score of men gaily apparelled after 
their manner, and having with them many sumpter- 
beasts with provision for the road. With this fellow- 
ship they came safely and with little pain unto Chestnut 
Vale, where they abode but one night, though to 
Ralph and Ursula the place was sweet for the memory 
of their loving sojourn there. 

They would have taken leave of the Innocent Folk 
in the said vale, but those others must needs go with 
them a little further, and would not leave them till 
they were come to the jaws of the pass which led to 
the Rock of the Fighting Man. Further than that 
indeed they would not, or durst not go ; and those 
huge mountains they called the Wall of Strife, even 
as they on the other side called them the Wall of the 
World. 

So the twain took leave of their friends there, and 
howbeit that they had drunk of the Well at the 
World's End, yet were their hearts grieved at the 
parting. The kind folk left with them abundant 
provision for the remnant of the road, and a sumpter- 
ox to bear it ; so they were in no doubt of their liveli- 
hood. Moreover, though the turn of autumn was 
come again and winter was at hand, yet the weather 
was fair and calm, and their journey through the 
dreary pass was as light as it might be to any men. 



104 



CHAPTER It THEY HEAR NEW TIDINGS 
OF UTTERBOL. 

IT was on a fair evening of later autumn- tide that 
they won their way out of the Gates of the Moun- 
tains, and came under the rock of the Fighting 
Man. There they kissed and comforted each other in 
memory of the terror and loneliness wherewith they had 
entered the Mountains that other time ; though, sooth 
to say, it was to them now like the reading of sorrow 
in a book. 

But when they came out with joyful hearts into the 
green plain betwixt the mountains and the River of 
Lava, they looked westward, and beheld no great way 
off a little bower or cot, builded of boughs and rushes 
by a blackthorn copse; and as they rode toward it 
they saw a man come forth therefrom, and presently 
saw that he was hoary, a man with a long white beard* 
Then Ralph gave a glad cry, and set spurs to his 
horse and galloped over the plain ; for he deemed that 
it could be none other than the Sage of Swevenham ; 
and Ursula came pricking after him laughing for joy. 
The old man abode their coming, and Ralph leapt off 
his horse at once, and kissed and embraced him ; but 
the Sage said : " There is no need to ask thee of 
tidings ; for thine eyes and thine whole body tell me 
that thou hast drunk of the Well at the World's End. 
And that shall be better for thee belike than it has 
been for me ; though for me also the world has not 
gone ill after my fashion since I drank of that water." 

Then was Ursula come up, and she also lighted 
down and made much of the Sage. But he said: 
" Hail, daughter ! It is sweet to see thee so, and to wot 
that thou art in the hands of a mighty man : for I 
know that Ralph thy man is minded for his Father's 
House, and the deeds that abide him there ; and I 
think we may journey a little way together ; for as for 

105 






me, I would go back to Swevenham to end my days 
there, whether they be long or short." 

But Ralph said : " As for that, thou mayst go 
further than Swevenham, and as far as Upmeads, 
where there will be as many to love and cherish thee 
as at Swevenham." 

The old man laughed a little, and reddened withal, 
but answered nothing. 

Then they untrussed their sumpter-beast, and took 
meat and drink from his burden, and they ate and 
drank together, sitting on the green grass there ; and 
the twain made great joy of the Sage, and told him the 
whole tale ; and he told them that he had been abiding 
there since the spring-tide, lest they might have turned 
back without accomplishing their quest, and then may- 
happen he should have been at hand to comfort them, 
or the one of them left, if so it had befallen. " But," 
quoth he, <c since ye have verily drunk of the Well at 
the World's End, ye have come back no later than I 
looked for you." 

That night they slept in the bower there, and on 
the morrow betimes, the Sage drove together three or 
four milch goats that he pastured there, and went their 
ways over the plain, and so in due time entered into 
the lava-sea. But the first night that they lay there, 
though it was moonless and somewhat cloudy, they 
saw no glare of the distant earth-fires which they had 
looked for ; and when on the morrow they questioned 
the Sage thereof, he said: "The Earth-fires ceased 
about the end of last year, as I have heard tell. But 
sooth it is that the foreboding of the Giant's Candle 
was not for naught. For there hath verily been a 
change of masters at Utterbol." 

" Yea," said Ralph, f< for better or worse ? " 

Said the Sage : " It could scarce have been for 
worse; but if rumour runneth right it is much for 
the better. Hearken how I learned thereof. One 

106 



fair even of late March, a little before I set off hither, 
as I was sitting before the door of my house, I saw 
the glint of steel through the wood, and presently 
rode up a sort of knights and men-at-arms, about a 
score ; and at the head of them a man on a big red- 
roan horse, with his surcoat blazoned with a white 
bull on a green field: he was a man black-haired, 
but blue-eyed ; not very big, but well knit and strong, 
and looked both doughty and knightly ; and he wore 
a gold coronet about his basnet : so not knowing his 
blazonry, I wondered who it was that durst be so bold 
as to ride in the lands of the Lord of Utterbol. Now 
he rode up to me and craved a drink of milk, for he 
had seen my goats ; so I milked two goats for him, 
and brought whey for the others, whereas I had no 
more goats in milk at that season. So the bull-knight 
spake to me about the woodland, and wherefore I 
dwelt there apart from others; somewhat rough in 
his speech he was, yet rather jolly than fierce ; and he 
thanked me for the bever kindly enough, and said : 
" I deem that it will not avail to give thee money ; but 
I shall give thee what may be of avail to thee. Ho, 
Gervaise ! give me one of those scrolls ! " So a squire 
hands him a parchment and he gave it me, and it was 
a safe-conduct to the bearer from the Lord of Utter- 
bol; but whereas I saw that the seal bore not the 
Bear on the Castle-wall, but the Bull, and that the 
superscription was unknown to me, I held the said 
scroll in my hand and wondered ; and the knight said 
to me : <c Yea, look long at it ; but so it is, though 
thou trow it not, that I am verily Lord of Utterbol, 
and that by conquest ; so that belike I am mightier 
than he was, for that mighty runagate have I slain. 
And many there be who deem that no mishap, heathen 
though I be. Come thou to Utterbol and see for thy- 
self if the days be not changed there ; and thou shalt 
have a belly-full of meat and drink, and honour after 

107 



thy deserving." So they rested a while, and then went 
their ways. To Utterbol I went not, but ere I de- 
parted to come hither two or three carles strayed my 
way, as whiles they will, who told me that this which 
the knight had said was naught but the sooth, and that 
great was the change of days at Utterbol, whereas all 
men there, both bond and free, were as merry as they 
deserved to be, or belike merrier." 

Ralph pondered this tale, and was not so sure but 
that this new lord was not Bull Shockhead, his war- 
taken thrall ; natheless he held his peace ; but Ursula 
said : u I marvel not much at the tale, for sure I am, 
that had Gandolf of the Bear been slain when I was at 
Utterbol, neither man nor woman had stirred a finger 
to avenge him. But all feared him, I scarce know 
why ; and, moreover, there was none to be master if 
he were gone." 

Thereafter she told more tales of the miseries of 
Utterbol than Ralph had yet heard, as though this 
tale of the end of that evil rule had set her free to 
utter them; and they fell to talking of other matters. 



CHAPTER III. THEY WINTER WITH THE 
SAGE; AND THEREAFTER COME AGAIN 
TO VALE TURRIS. 

THUS with no peril and little pain they came 
to the Sage's hermitage; and whereas the 
autumn was now wearing, and it was not to 
be looked for that they should cross even the moun- 
tains west of Goldburg, let alone those to the west of 
Cheaping Knowe, when winter had once set in, Ralph 
and Ursula took the Sage's bidding to abide the winter 
through with him, and set forth on their journey 
again when spring should be fairly come and the 
mountain ways be clear of snow. 

108 



So they dwelt there happily enough ; for they helped 
the Sage in his husbandry, and he enforced him to 
make them cheer, and read in the ancient book to 
them, and learned them as much as it behoved them 
to hearken ; and told them tales of past time. 

Thereafter when May was at hand they set out on 
their road, and whereas the Sage knew the wood well, 
he made a long story short by bringing them to Vale 
Turris in four days' time. But when they rode down 
into the dale, they saw the plain meads below the 
Tower all bright with tents and booths, and much 
folk moving about amidst them ; here and there amidst 
the roofs of cloth withal was showing the half finished 
frame of a timber house a-building. But now as 
they looked and wondered what might be toward, a 
half score of weaponed men rode up to them and bade 
them, but courteously, to come with them to see their 
Lord. The Sage drew forth his let-pass thereat ; but 
the leader of the riders said, as he shook his head : 
" That is good for thee, father ; but these two knights 
must needs give an account of themselves : for my 
lord is minded to put down all lifting throughout his 
lands ; therefore hath he made the meshes of his net 
small. But if these be thy friends it will be well. 
Therefore thou art free to come with them and bear 
witness to their good life." 

Here it must be said that since they were on the road 
again Ursula had donned her wargear once more, and 
as she rode was to all men's eyes naught but a young 
and slender knight. 

So without more ado they followed those men-at- 
arms, and saw how the banner of the Bull was now 
hung out from the Tower ; and the sergeants brought 
them into the midst of the vale, where, about those 
tents and those half-finished frame-houses (whereof 
they saw six) was a market toward and much con- 
course of folk. But the sergeants led through them 

109 



and the lanes of the booths down to the side of the 
river, where on a green knoll, with some dozen of 
men-at-arms and captains about him, sat the new 
Lord of Utterbol. 

Now as the others drew away from him to right 
and left, the Lord sat before Ralph with naught to 
hide him, and when their eyes met Ralph gave a cry 
as one astonished ; and the Lord of Utterbol rose up 
to his feet and shouted, and then fell a laughing 
joyously, and then cried out : " Welcome, King's Son, 
and look on me ! for though the feathers be fine 'tis 
the same bird. I am Lord of Utterbol and there- 
withal Bull Shockhead, whose might was less than 
thine on the bent of the mountain valley." 

Therewith he caught hold of Ralph's hand, and 
sat himself down and drew Ralph down, and made 
him sit beside him. 

" Thou seest I am become great ? " said he. " Yea," 
said Ralph, " I give thee joy thereof!" Said the new 
Lord : " Perchance thou wilt be deeming that since 
I was once thy war-taken thrall I should give myself 
up to thee : but I tell thee I will not : for I have much 
to do here. Moreover I did not run away from thee, 
but thou rannest from me, lad." 

Thereat in his turn Ralph fell a laughing, and when 
he might speak he said : u What needeth the lord of all 
these spears to beg off his service to the poor wander- 
ing knight?" 

Then Bull put his arms about him, and said : " I 
am fain at the sight of thee, time was thou wert a 
kind lad and a good master ; yet naught so merry as 
thou shouldest have been ; but now I see that gladness 
plays all about thy face, and sparkles in thine eyes ; 
and that is good. But these thy fellows? I have 
seen the old carle before : he was dwelling in the 
wild wood because he was overwise to live with other 
folk. But this young man, who may he be? Or 

1 10 



else yea, verily, it is a young woman. Yea, and now 
I deem that it is the thrall of my brother Bull Nosy. 
Therefore by heritage she is now mine." 

Ralph heard the words but saw not the smiling face, 
so wroth he was ; therefore the bare sword was in his 
fist in a twinkling. But ere he could smite Bull 
caught hold of his wrist, and said : " Master, master, 
thou art but a sorry lawyer, or thou wouldst have 
said : c Thou art my thrall, and how shall a thrall 
have heritage ? ' Dost thou not see that I cannot own 
her till I be free, and that thou wilt not give me my 
freedom save for hers ? There, now is all the matter 
of the service duly settled, and I am free and a Lord. 
And this damsel is free also, and yea, is she not thy 
well-beloved, King's Son ?" 

Ralph was somewhat abashed, and said : Cc I crave 
thy pardon, Lord, for misdoubting thee : but think 
how feeble are we two lovers amongst the hosts of the 
aliens." 

" It is well, it is well/ 1 said Bull, " and in very 
sooth I deem thee my friend ; and this damsel was my 
brother's friend. Sit down, dear maiden, I bid thee ; 
and thou also, O man overwise ; and let us drink a 
cup, and then we will talk about what we may do for 
each other." 

So they sat down all on the grass, and the Lord of 
Utterbol called for wine, and they drank together in 
the merry season of May ; and the new Lord said : 
" Here be we friends come together, and it were pity 
of our lives if we must needs sunder speedily : how- 
beit, it is thou must rule herein, King's Son ; for in 
my eyes thou art still greater than I, O my master. 
For I can see in thine eyes and thy gait, and in thine 
also, maiden, that ye have drunk of the Well at the 
World's End. Therefore I pray you gently and 
heartily that ye come home with me to Utterbol." 

Ralph shook his head, and answered : " Lord of 
1 1 1 



Utterbol, I bid thee all thanks for thy friendliness, but 
it may not be." 

" But take note," said Bull, C that all is changed 
there, and it hath become a merry dwelling of men. 
We have cast down the Red Pillar, and the White 
and the Black also; and it is no longer a place of 
torment and fear, and cozening and murder ; but the 
very thralls are happy and free-spoken. Now come 
ye, if it were but for a moon's wearing : I shall be 
there in eight days' time. Yea, Lord Ralph, thou 
would'st see old acquaintance there withal : for when 
I slew the tyrant, who forsooth owed me no less than 
his life for the murder of my brother, I made atone- 
ment to his widow, and wedded her : a fair woman 
as thou wottest, lord, and of good kindred, and of no 
ill conditions, as is well seen now that she lives happy 
days. Though I have heard say that while she was 
under the tyrant she was somewhat rough with her 
women when she was sad. Eh, fair sir ! but is it not 
so that she cast sheep's eyes on thee, time was, in this 
same dale ? " 

Ralph reddened and answered naught; and Bull 
spake again, laughing : u Yea, so it is : she told me 
that much herself, and afterwards I heard more from 
her damsel Agatha, who told me the merry tale of that 
device they made to catch thee, and how thou brakest 
through the net. Forsooth, though this she told me 
not, I deem that she would have had the same gift of 
thee as her mistress would. Well, lad, lucky are they 
with whom all women are in love. So now I prithee 
trust so much in thy luck as to come with me to 
Utterbol." 

Quoth Ralph: "Once again, Lord of Utterbol, 
we thank thee ; but whereas thou hast said that thou 
hast much to do in this land ; even so I have a land 
where deeds await me. For I stole myself away from 
my father and mother, and who knows what help 

112 



they need of me against foemen, and evil days ; and 
now I might give help to them were I once at home, 
and to the people of the land also, who are a stout- 
hearted and valiant and kindly folk." 

The new Lord's face clouded somewhat, as he said : 
<c If thine heart draweth thee to thy kindred, there is 
no more to say. As for me, what I did was for 
kindred's sake, and then what followed after was the 
work of need. Well, let it be ! But since we must 
needs part hastily, this at least I bid you, that ye abide 
with me for to-night, and the banquet in the great pavi- 
lion . Howsoever ye may be busied, gainsay me not this ; 
and to-morrow I shall further you on your way, and 
give you a score of spears to follow thee to Goldburg. 
Then as for Goldburg and Cheaping Knowe, see ye 
to it yourselves: but beyond Cheaping Knowe and 
the plain country, thy name is known, and the like- 
ness of thee told in words ; and no man in those 
mountains shall hurt or hinder thee, but all thou 
meetest shall aid and further thee. Moreover, at the 
feast to-night thou shalt see thy friend Otter, and he 
and I betwixt us shall tell thee how I came to Utterbol, 
and of the change of days, and how it betid. For he 
is now my right-hand man, as he was of the dead 
man. Forsooth, after the slaying I would have had 
him take the lordship of Utterbol, but he would not, 
so I must take it perforce or be. slain, and let a new 
master reign there little better than the old. Well 
then, how sayest thou ? Or wilt thou run from me 
without leave-taking, as thou didst erewhile at 
Goldburg?" 

Ralph laughed at his word, and said that he would 
not be so churlish this time, but would take his bid- 
ding with a good heart ; and thereafter they fell to 
talking of many things. But Ralph took note of 
Bull, that now his hair and beard were trim and his 
raiment goodly, for all his rough speech and his 

n. 113 i 



laughter and heart-whole gibes and mocking, his 
aspect and bearing was noble and knightly. 

CHAPTER IV. A FEAST IN THE RED 
PAVILION. 

SO in a while they Went with him to the Tower, 
and there was woman's raiment of the best 
gotten for Ursula, and afterwards at nightfall 
they went to the feast in the Red Pavilion of Utterbol, 
which awhile ago the now-slain Lord of Utterbol, 
had let make ; and it was exceeding rich with broidery 
of pearl and gems: since forsooth gems and fair 
women were what the late lord "had lusted for the 
most, and have them he would at the price of how- 
soever many tears and groans. But that pavilion 
was yet in all wise as it was wont to be, saving that 
the Bull had supplanted the Bear upon the Castle-wall. 
Now the wayfarers were treated with all honour 
and were set upon the high-seat, Ralph upon the 
right-hand of the Lord, and Ursula upon his left, and 
the Sage of Swevenham out from her. But on Ralph's 
right hand was at first a void place, whereto after a 
while came Otter, the old Captain of the Guard. He 
came in hastily, and as though he had but just taken 
his armour off : for his raiment was but such as the 
men-at-arms of that qountry were wont to wear under 
their war-gear, and was somewhat stained and worn ; 
whereas the other knights and lords were arrayed 
grandly in silks and fine cloth embroidered and be- 
gemmed. 

Otter was fain when he saw Ralph, and kissed and 
embraced him, and said : " Forsooth, I saw by thy 
face, lad, that the world would be soft before thee ; 
and now that I behold thee I know already that thou 
hast won thy quest ; and the Gods only know to 
what honour thou shalt attain." 

114 



Ralph laughed for joy of him, and yet said soberly : 
" As to honour, meseems I covet little world's goods, 
save that it may be well with my folk at home." Never- 
theless as the words were out of his mouth his thought 
went back to the tall man whom he had first met at 
the churchyard gate of Netherton, and it seemed to 
him that he wished his thriving, yea, and in a lesser 
way, he wished the same to Roger of the Rope- walk, 
whereas he deemed that both of these, each in his 
own way, had been true to the lady whom he had lost. 

Then Otter fell a-talking to him of the change of 
days at Utterbol, and how that it was the Lord's 
intent that a cheaping town should grow up in the 
Dale of the Tower, and that the wilderness beyond it 
should be tilled and builded. " And," said he, " if 
this be done, and the new lord live to see it, as he 
may, being but young of years, he may become 
exceedingly mighty, and if he hold on in the way 
whereas he now is, he shall be well-beloved also." 

So they spake of many things, and there was 
minstrelsy and diverse joyance, till at last the Lord of 
Utterbol stood up and said : " Now bring in the 
Bull, that we may speak some words over him ; for 
this is a great feast." Ralph wondered what bull 
this might be whereof he spake ; but the harps and 
fiddlers, and all instruments of music struck up a gay 
and gallant tune, and presently there came into the 
hall four men richly attired, who held up on spears a 
canopy of bawdekin, under which went a man-at-arms 
helmed, and clad in bright armour, who held in his 
hands a great golden cup fashioned like to a bull, and 
he bore it forth unto the dais, and gave it into the 
hands of the Lord. Then straightway all the noise 
ceased, and the glee and clatter of the hall, and 
there was dead silence. Then the Lord held the cup 
aloft and said in a loud voice : 

" Hail, all ye folk ! I swear by the Bull, and they 



that made him, that in three years' time or less I will 
have purged all the lands of Utterbol of all strong- 
thieves and cruel tyrants, be they big or little, till all 
be peace betwixt the mountains and the mark of 
Goldburg; and the wilderness shall blossom like the 
rose. Or else shall I die in the pain." 

Therewith he drank of the cup, and all men shouted. 
Then he sat him down and bade hand the cup to 
Otter; and Otter took the cup and looked into the 
bowl and saw the wave of wine, and laughed and cried 
out : " As for me, what shall I swear but that I will 
follow the Bull through thick and thin, through peace 
and unpeace, through grief and joy. This is my 
oath-swearing." 

And he drank mightily and sat down. 

Then turned the Lord to Ralph and said : <c And 
thou who art my master, wilt thou not tell thy friends 
and the Gods what thou wilt do ? " 

"No great matter, belike," said Ralph; "but if 
ye will it, I will speak out my mind thereon." 

" We will it/' said the Lord. 

Then Ralph arose and took the cup and lifted it 
and spake : " This I swear, that I will go home to my 
kindred, yet on the road will I not gainsay help to 
any that craveth it. So may all Hallows help me ! " 

Therewith he drank : and Bull said : " This is 
well said, O happy man! But now that men have 
drunk well, do ye three and Otter come with me into 
the Tower, whereas the chambers are dight for you, 
that I may make the most of this good day wherein 
I have met thee again." 

So they went with him, and when they had sat 
down in the goodliest chamber of the Tower, and 
they had been served with wine and spices, the new 
Lord said to Ralph : " And now, my master, wilt 
thou not ask somewhat concerning me?" "Yea," 
said Ralph, <c I will ask thee to tell the tale of how 

1 16 



thou earnest into thy Lordship. Said the Lord, 
" This shall ye hear of me with Otter to help me out. 
Hearken!" 



CHAPTER V. BULL TELLETH OF HIS 
WINNING OF THE LORDSHIP OF UT- 
TERBOL. 

a "IT IT THEN thou rannest away from me, and left 
^^7 me alone at Goldburg, I was grieved ; then 
Clement Chapman offered to take me back 
with him to his own country, which, he did me to wit, 
lieth hard by thine : but I would not go with him, 
since I had an inkling that I should find the slayer of 
my brother, and be avenged on him. So the Chapmen 
departed from Goldberg after that Clement had dealt 
generously by me for thy sake ; and when they were 
gone I bethought me what to do, and thou knowest 
I can some skill with the fiddle and song, so I betook 
myself to that craft, both to earn somewhat, and that 
I might gather tidings and be little heeded ; till within 
awhile folk got to know me well, and would often 
send for me to their merry-makings, where they gave 
me fiddler's wages, to wit, meat, drink, and money. 
So what with one thing what with another I was rich 
enough to leave Goldburg and fall to my journey unto 
Utterbol ; since I misdoubted me from the first that 
the caytifF who had slain my brother was the Lord 
thereof. 

<c But one day when I went into the market-place 
I found a great stir and clutter there ; some folk, both 
men and women, screeching and fleeing, and some 
running to bows and other weapons. So I caught 
hold of one of the fleers, and asked him what was 
toward ; and he cried out, c Loose me ! let me go ! 
he is loose, he is loose ! ' 

"'Who is loose, fool?' quoth I. 'The lion/ 
117 



said he, and therewith in the extremity of his terror 
tore himself away from me and fled. By this time the 
others also had got some distance away from me, and I 
was left pretty much alone. So I went forth on a 
little, looking about me, and sure enough under one 
of the pillars of the* cloister beneath the market-house 
(the great green pillar, if thou mindest it), lay crouched 
a huge yellow lion, on the carcase of a goat, which 
he had knocked down, but would not fall to eating of 
amidst all that cry and hubbub. 

cc Now belike one thing of me thou wottest not, to 
wit, that I have a gift that wild things love and will do 
my bidding. The house-mice will run over me as I 
lie awake looking on them ; the small birds will perch 
on my shoulders without fear ; the squirrels and hares 
will gambol about quite close to me as if I were but a 
tree; and, withal, the fiercest hound or mastiff is tame 
before me. Therefore I feared not this lion, and, 
moreover, I looked to it that if I might tame him 
thoroughly, he would both help me to live as a 
jongleur, and would be a sure ward to me. 

" So I walked up towards him quietly, till he saw me 
and half rose up growling ; but I went on still, and 
said to him in a peaceable voice : * How now, yellow 
mane ! what aileth thee ? down with thee, and eat thy 
meat/ So he sat down to his quarry again, but 
growled still, and I went up close to him, and said to 
him : c Eat in peace and safety, am I not here ? ' And 
therewith I held out my bare hand unclenched to him, 
and he smelt to it, and straightway began to be peace- 
able, and fell to tearing the goat, and devouring it, 
while I stood by speaking to him friendly. 

cc "But presently I saw weapons glitter on the other 
side of the square place, and men with bended bows. 
The yellow king saw them also, and rose up again and 
stood growling ; then I strove to quiet him, and said, 
c These shall not harm thee.' 

118 



" Therewith the men cried out to me to come away, 
for they would shoot : But I called out; ' Shoot not 
yet ! but tell me, does any man own this beast ? ' ' Yea/ 
said one, ( I own him, and happy am I that he doth 
not own me/ Said I, c Wilt thou sell him ? ' c Yea ' 
said he, ' if thou livest another hour to tell down the 
money/ Said I, c I am a tamer of wild beasts, and if 
thou wilt sell this one at such a price, I will rid 
thee of him/ The man yeasaid this, but kept well 
aloof with his fellows, who looked on, handling their 
weapons. 

" Then I turned to my new-bought thrall and bade 
him come with me, and he followed me like a dog to 
his cage, which was hard by ; and I shut him in there, 
and laid down the money to his owner ; and folk came 
round about, and wondered, and praised me. But I 
said : ' My masters, have ye naught of gifts for the 
tamer of beasts, and the deliverer of men ? ' Thereat 
they laughed ; but they brought me money and other 
goods, till I had gotten far more than I had given for 
the lion. 

<f Howbeit the next day the officers of the Porte 
came and bade me avoid the town of Goldburg, but 
gave me more money withal. I was not loth thereto, 
but departed, riding a little horse that I had, and 
leading my lion by a chain, though when I was by he 
needed little chaining. 

cc So that without more ado I took the road to 
Utterbol, and wheresoever I came, I had what was to 
be had that I would ; neither did any man fall on me, 
or on my lion. For though they might have shot 
him or slain him with many spear-thrusts, yet besides 
that they feared him sorely, they feared me still more ; 
deeming me some mighty sending from their Gods. 

" Thus came I to Utterness, and found it poor and 
wretched, (as forsooth, it yet is, but shall not be so 
for long). But the House of Utterbol is exceeding 

119 



fair and stately (as thou mightest have learned from 
others, my master,) and its gardens, and orchards, and 
acres, and meadows as goodly as may be. Yea, a very 
paradise ; yet the dwellers therein as if it were hell, as 
I saw openly with mine own eyes. 

" To be short, the fame of me and my beast had 
somehow gone before me, and when I came to the 
House, I was dealt with fairly, and had good enter- 
tainment ; and this all the more, as the Lord was away 
for a while, and the life of folk not so hard by a great 
way as it had been if he had been there : but the Lady 
was there in the house, and on the morrow of my 
coming, by her command, I brought my lion before 
her window and made him come and go, and fetch 
and carry at my bidding, and when I had done my 
play she bade me up into her bower, and bade me sit 
and had me served with wine, while she asked me 
many questions as to my country and friends, and 
whence and whither I was ; and I answered her with 
the very sooth, so far as the sooth was handy ; and 
there was with her but one of her women, even thy 
friend Agatha, fair sir. 

" Methought both that this Queen was a fair woman, 
and that she looked kindly upon me ; and at last she 
said, sighing, that she were well at ease if her baron 
were even such a man as I, whereas the said Lord was 
fierce and cruel, and yet a dastard withal. But the 
said Agatha turned on her, and chided her, as one 
might with a child, and said : ' Hold thy peace of thy 
loves and thy hates before a very stranger ! Or must 
I leave yet more of my blood on the pavement of the 
White Pillar, for the pleasure of thy loose tongue ? 
Come out now, mountain-carle ! ' 

" And she took me by the hand and led me out, 
and when we had passed the door and it was shut, she 
turned to me and said : 4 Thou, if I hear any word 
abroad of what my Lady has just spoken, I shall know 

i 20 



that thou hast told it, and though I be but a thrall, 
yea, and of late a mishandled one, yet am I of might 
enough in Utterbol to compass thy destruction/ 

u I laughed in her face and went my ways : and 
thereafter I saw many folk and showed them my beast, 
and soon learned two things clearly. 

" And first that the Lord and the Lady were now 
utterly at variance. For a little before he had come 
home, and found a lack in his household to wit, how 
a certain fair woman whom he had but just got hold 
of, and whom he lusted after sorely, was fled away. 
And he laid the wyte thereof on his Lady, and threat- 
ened her with death : and when he considered that he 
durst not slay her, or torment her (for he was verily 
but a dastard), he made thy friend Agatha pay for 
her under pretence of wringing a true tale out of 
her. 

" Now when I heard this story I said to myself that 
I should hear that other one of the slaying of my 
brother, and even so it befell. For I came across a 
man who told me when and how the Lord came by 
the said damsel (whom I knew at once could be none 
other than thou, Lady,) and how he had slain my 
brother to get her, even as doubtless thou knowest, 
Lord Ralph. 

" But the second thing which I learned was that all 
folk at Utterbol, men and women, dreaded the home- 
coming of this tyrant ; and that there was no man 
but would have deemed it a good deed to slay him. 
But, dastard as he was, use and wont, and the fear 
that withholdeth rebels, and the doubt that draweth 
back slaves, saved him ; and they dreaded him more- 
over as a devil rather than a man. Forsooth one of the 
men there, who looked upon me friendly, who had had 
tidings of this evil beast drawing near, spake to me a 
word of warning, and said: c Friend lion-master, take 
heed to thyself ! For I fear for thee when the Lord 

121 



cometh home and findeth thee here ; lest he let poison 
thy lion and slay thee miserably afterward.' 

" Well, in three days from that word home cometh 
the Lord with a rout of his spearmen, and some dozen 
of captives, whom he had taken. And the morrow 
of his coming, he, having heard of me, sent and bade 
me showing the wonder of the Man and the Lion ; 
therefore in the bright morning I played with the lion 
under his window as I had done by the Queen. And 
after I had played some while, and he looking out of 
the window, he called to me and said : c Canst thou 
lull thy lion to sleep, so that thou mayst leave him for 
a little ? For I would fain have thee up here/ 

" I yeasaid that, and chid the beast, and then sang 
to him till he lay down and slept like a hound weary 
with hunting. And then I went up into the Lord's 
chamber ; and as it happed, all the while of my play- 
ing I had had my short-sword naked in my hand, and 
thus, I deem without noting it, yet as weird would, I 
came before the tyrant, where he sat with none anigh 
him save this Otter and another man-at-arms. But 
when I saw him, all the blood within me that was come 
of one mother with my brother's blood stirred within 
me, and I set my foot on the foot-pace of this mur- 
derer's chair, and hove up my short-sword, and clave 
his skull, in front and with mine own hand : not as he 
wrought, not as he wrought with my brother. 

" Then I turned about to Otter (who had his sword 
in his fist when it was too late) till he should speak. 
Hah Otter, what didst thou say ? " 

Otter laughed : Quoth he, " I said : thus endeth the 
worst man in the world. Well done, lion-tamer ! thou 
art no ill guest, and hast paid on the nail for meat, 
drink and lodging. But what shall we do now ? Then 
thou saidst ; c Well, I suppose thou wilt be for slaying 
me.' c Nay,' said I, c We will not slay thee ; at least 
not for this, nor now, nor without terms/ Thou saidst : 

122 



'Perchance then thou wilt let me go free, since this 
man was ill-beloved : yea, and he owed me a life. ' 
'Nay, nay/ said I, c not so fast, good beast-lord/ ' Why 
not ? ' saidst thou, C I can see of thee that thou art a valiant 
man, and whereas thou hast been captain of the host, 
and the men-at-arms will lightly do thy bidding, why 
shouldest thou not sit in the place of this man, and be 
Lord of Utterbol?' 

"'Nay nay/ said^I, c it will not do, hearken thou 
rather : For here I give thee the choice of two things, 
either that thou be Lord of Utterbol, or that we slay 
thee here and now. For we be two men all-armed/ 

" Thou didst seem to ponder it a while, and then 
saidst at last : ' Well, I set not out on this journey with 
any such-like intent ; yet will I not wrestle with weird. 
Only I forewarn thee that I shall change the days of 
Utterbol/ 

<c * It will not be for the worst then/ quoth I. c So now 
go wake up thy lion, and lead him away to his den ; 
and we will presently send him this carrion for a 
reward of his jonglery/ ' Gramercy, butcher/ saidst 
thou, c I am not for thy flesh-meat to-day. I was fore- 
warned that the poor beast should be poisoned at this 
man's home-coming, and so will he be if he eat of this 
dastard; he will not outlive such a dinner/ Thereat 
we all laughed heartily." 

" Yea," said Bull, cc So I went to lead away the lion 
when thou hadst bidden me return in an hours' wear- 
ing, when all should be ready for my Lordship. And 
thou wert not worse than thy word, for when I came 
into that court again, there were all the men-at-arms 
assembled, and the free carles, and the thralls ; and 
the men-at-arms raised me on a shield, set a crowned 
helm on my head, and thrust a great sword into my 
hand, and hailed me by the name of the Bui 1 of Utterbol, 
Lord of the Waste and the Wildwood, and the 
Mountain-side : and then thou, Otter, wert so simple 

123 



as to kneel before me and name thyself my man, and 
take the girding on of sword at my hand. Then even 
as I was I went in to my Lady and told her the end of 
my tale, and in three minutes she lay in my arms, and 
in three days in my bed as my wedded wife. As to 
Agatha, when I had a little jeered her, I gave her rich 
gifts and good lands, and freedom, to boot her for her 
many stripes. And lo there, King's Son and Sweet 
Lady, the end of all my tale." 

c< Yea," quoth Otter, <c saving this, that even already 
thou hast raised up Utterbol from Hell to Earth, and 
yet meseemeth thou hast good-will to raise it higher." 

Bull reddened at his word, and said : " Tush, man ! 
praise the day when the sun has set." Then he turned 
to Ralph, and said : " Yet couldst thou at whiles put 
in a good word for me here and there amongst the 
folks that thou shalt pass through on thy ways home, 
I were fain to know that I had a well-speaking friend 
abroad." "We shall do no less," said Ralph; and 
Ursula spake in like wise. 

So they talked together merrily a while longer, till 
night began to grow old, and then went to their 
chambers in all content and good-liking. 

CHAPTER VI. THEY RIDE FROM VALE 
TURRIS. REDHEAD TELLS OF AGATHA. 

ON the morrow when they arose, Ralph heard 
the sound of horses and the clashing of arms : 
he went to the window, and looked out, and 
saw how the spears stood up thick together at the 
Tower's foot, and knew that these were the men who 
were to be his fellows by the way. Their captain he 
saw, a big man all-armed in steel, but himseemed that 
he knew his face under his sallet, and presently saw 
that it was Redhead. He was glad thereof, and clad 
himself hastily, and went out a-doors, and went up to 

124 



him and hailed him, and Redhead leapt off his horse, 
and cast his arms about Ralph, and made much of him, 
and said : " It is good for sore eyes to see thee, lord ; 
and I am glad at heart that all went well with thee 
that time. Although, forsooth, there was guile behind 
it. Yet whereas I wotted nothing thereof, which I 
will pray thee to believe, and whereas thou hast the 
gain of all, I deem thou mayst pardon me." 

Said Ralph : u Thou hast what pardon of me thou 
needest ; so be content. For the rest, little need is there 
to ask if thou thrivest, for I behold thee glad and well 
honoured." 

As they spoke came the Lord forth from the Tower, 
and said : <c Come thou, Lord Ralph, and eat with us 
ere thou takest to the road ; I mean with Otter and 
me. As for thee, Redhead, if aught of ill befall this 
King's Son under thy way-leading, look to it that thou 
shalt lose my good word with Agatha; yea, or gain my 
nay say herein ; whereby thou shalt miss both fee and 
fair dame." 

Redhead looked sheepishly on Ralph at that word, 
yet winked at him also, as if it pleased him to be jeered 
concerning his wooing; so that Ralph saw how the 
land lay, and that the guileful handmaid was not ill 
content with that big man. So he smiled kindly on 
him and nodded, and went back with Bull into the 
Tower. There they sat down all to meat together ; 
and when they were done with their victual, Bull spake, 
and said to Ralph : " Fair King's Son, is this then the 
last sight of thee ? wilt thou never come over the 
mountains again ? " Said Ralph : " Who knoweth ? 
I am young yet, and have drunk of the Water of the 
Well." Bull grew somewhat pensive and said : u Yea, 
thou meanest that thou mayest come back and find 
me no longer here. Yet if thou findest but my grave- 
mound, yet mayhappen thou shalt come on something 
said or sung of me, which shall please thee. For I will 

125 



tell thee, that thou hast changed my conditions ; how, 
I wot not." 

" Thy word is good," said Ralph, " yet I meant 
not that; never should I come to Utterbol if I 
looked not to find thee living there." Bull smiled on 
him as though he loved him, and said : " This is well 
spoken; I shall look to see thee before I die." 

Then said Ursula : " Lord of Utterbol, this also 
thou mayst think on, that it is no further from 
Utterbol to Upmeads than from Upmeads to Utter- 
bol." The Lord laughed and said : " Sooth is that ; 
and were but my Bull here, as I behold you I should 
be of mind to swear by him to come and see you at 
Upmeads ere ten years have worn/' 

Then she put forth her hand and said : u Swear by 
this ! " So he took it and swore the oath ; but the 
Sage of Swevenham said : " This oath thou shalt keep 
to the gain and not the loss both of thee and of thy 
friends of Upmeads." 

Thus were they fain of each other, and Ralph saw 
how Bull's heart was grown big, and he rejoiced 
thereat. But anon he arose and said : cc Now, Lord, 
we ask leave to depart, for the way is long, and may- 
happen my kindred now lack a man's helping. Then 
Bull stood up and called for his horse, and Otter also, 
and they all went forth and gat a-horseback and rode 
away from Vale Turris, and Redhead rode behind 
them humbly, till it was noon and they made stay for 
meat. Then after they had broken bread together 
and drunk a cup, Bull and Otter kissed the way- 
farers, and bade them farewell, and so rode back to 
Vale Turris, and Ralph and Ursula and the Sage tar- 
ried not but rode on their ways. 

But anon Ralph called to Redhead, and bade him 
ride beside them that they might talk together, and 
he came up with them, and Ursula greeted him kindly, 
and they were merry one with another. And Ralph 

126 



said to Redhead : " Friend captain, thou art exceed- 
ing in humility not to ride with the Lord or Captain 
Otter ; save for chance-hap, I see not that thou art 
worser than they." 

Redhead grinned, and said : " Well, as to Otter, 
that is all true ; but as for Lord Bull it is another 
matter ; I wot not but his kindred may be as good 
or better than any in these east parts. In any case, he 
hath his kin and long descent full often in his mouth, 
while I am but a gangrel body. Howbeit it is all one, 
whereas whatso he or Otter bid any man to do, he 
doeth it, but my bidding may be questioned at whiles. 
And look you, lord, times are not ill, so wherefore 
should I risk a change of days? Sooth to say, both 
these great lords have done well by me." 

Ralph laughed : " And better will they do, as thou 
deemest; give thee Agatha, to wit?" "Yea, fair 
sir," quoth Redhead. " No great gift, that seemeth 
to me, for thy valiancy," said Ralph ; cc she is guileful 
enough and loose enough for a worse man than thee." 

ct Lord," said Redhead, cc even of her thou shalt say 
what pleaseth thee ; but no other man shall say of her 
what pleaseth me not. For all that is come and gone 
she is true and valiant, and none may say that she is 
not fair and sweet enough for a better man than me ; 
and my great good luck it is that, as I hope, she 
looketh no further for a better." 

Ursula said: "Is it so, perchance, that now she is free 
and hath naught to fear, she hath no need for guile ?" 
" Hail to thee for thy word, lady," quoth Redhead ; 
and then he was silent, glooming somewhat on Ralph. 

But Ralph said : cc Nay, my friend, I meant no 
harm, but I was wondering what had befallen to bring 
you two so close together." 

c< It was fear and pain, and the helping of each other 
that wrought it," said Redhead. Said Ursula : " Good 
Captain, how was it that she escaped the uttermost of 

127 



evil at the tyrants hands ? since from all that I have 
heard, it must needs be that he laid the blame on her 
(working for her mistress) of my flight from Utterbol." 

ct Even so it was, lady," said Redhead ; " but, as 
thou wottest belike, she had got it spread abroad that 
she was cunning in sorcery, and that her spell would 
not end when her life ended ; nay, that he to whom 
her ghost should bear ill-will, and more especially such 
an one as might compass her death, should have but 
an ill time of it while he lived, which should not be 
long. This tale, which, sooth to say, I myself helped 
to spread, the Lord of Utterbol trowed in wholly, 
so cunningly was it told ; so that, to make a long story 
short, he feared her, and feared her more dead than 
living. So that when he came home, and found thee 
gone, lady, he did indeed deem that thy flight was of 
Agatha's contrivance. And this the more because his 
nephew (he whom thou didst beguile ; I partly guess 
how) told him a made-up tale how all was done by 
the spells of Agatha. For this youth was of all men, 
not even saving his uncle, most full of malice ; and he 
hated Agatha, and would have had her suffer the utter- 
most of torments and he to be standing by the while ; 
howbeit his malice overshot itself, since his tale made 
her even more of a witch than the lord deemed before. 

"Yea," said Ursula, <c and what hath befallen that 
evil young man, Captain ? " Said Redhead : " It is 
not known to many, lady ; but two days before the 
slaying of his uncle, I met him in a wood a little 
way from Utterbol, and, the mood being on me, I 
tied him neck and heels and cast him, with a stone 
round his neck, into a deep woodland pool hight 
the Ram's Bane, which is in that same wood. 
Well, as to my tale of Agatha. When the lord 
came home first, he sent for her, and his rage had 
so mastered his fear for a while that his best word 
was scourge and rack and faggot ; but she was, out- 

128 



wardly, so calm and cold, smiling on him balefully, 
that he presently came to himself, and found that fear 
was in his belly, and that he might not do what he 
would with her ; wherefore he looked to it that how- 
ever she were used (which was ill enough, God wot !) 
she should keep the soul in her body. And at last 
the fear so mounted into his head that he made peace 
with her, and even craved forgiveness of her and gave 
her gifts. She answered him sweetly indeed, yet so 
as he (and all others who were bystanding, of whom 
I was one,) might well see that she deemed she owed 
him a day in harvest. As for me, he heeded me 
naught, and I lay low all I might. And in any wise 
we wore the time till the great day of deliverance." 

Therewith dropped the talk about Agatha, when 
they had bidden him all luck in his life. Forsooth, 
they were fain of his words, and of his ways withal. 
For he was a valiant man, and brisk, and one who 
forgat no benefit, and was trusty as steel ; merry- 
hearted withal, and kind and ready of speech despite 
his uplandish manners, which a life not a little rude 
had thrust on him. 



CHAPTER VII. OF THEIR RIDING THE 
WASTE, AND OF A BATTLE THEREON. 

THEY slept in no house that night nor for 
many nights after ; for they were now fairly 
on the waste. They bore with them a light 
tent for Ursula's lodging benights, and the rest of 
them slept on the field as they might ; or should they 
come to a thicket or shaw, they would lodge them 
there softly. Victual and drink failed them not, for 
they bore what they needed on sumpter-horses, and 
shot some venison on the way withal. They saw but 
few folk ; for the most part naught save a fowler of 
the waste, or a peat-cutter, who stood to look on the 
ii. 129 K 



men-at-arms going by, and made obeisance to the 
token of Utterbol. 

But on a time, the fifth day of their journey, they 
saw, in the morning, spears not a few standing up 
against a thicket-side in the offing. Redhead looked 
under the sharp of his hand, and laughed as though 
he were glad, and said : u I know not clearly what 
these may be, but it looketh like war. Now, knight, 
this is best to do : hold with thee three of our best 
men, so that ye may safeguard the Lady, and I with 
the others will prick on and look into this." 

u Nay," said Ralph, " thou mayst yet be apaid of 
a man's aid ; and if there be strokes on sale in the 
cheaping-stead yonder, I will deal along with thee. 
Leave thy three men with the Lady, and let us on ; 
we shall soon be back." 

cc Nay once more, dear lord," quoth Ursula, " I fear 
to be left alone of thee, and it is meet that thou free 
me from fear. I will ride with you, but three horse- 
lengths behind, so as not to hinder you. I have been 
worse bestead than this shall be." 

"It is good," quoth Redhead, "let her ride with 
us : " for why should she suffer the pain of fear in the 
lonely waste ? But let her do on a hauberk over her 
coats, and a steel coif over her head, for shaft and bolt 
will ofttimes go astray." 

Even so they did, and rode forward, and presently 
they saw the spearmen that they were somewhat more 
than their company, and that they were well mounted 
on black horses and clad in black armour. Then they 
drew rein for awhile and Redhead scanned them again 
and said : " Yea, these are the men of the brother of 
thy hot wooer, Lady Ursula, whom I cooled in the 
Ram's Bane, but a man well nigh as old as his uncle, 
though he hath not made men tremble so sore, albeit 
he be far the better man, a good warrior, a wise leader, 
a reiver and lifter well wrought at all points. Well, 

130 



'tis not unlike that we shall have to speak to his men 
again, either out-going or home-coming : so we had 
best kill as many of these as we may now. Do on 
thy sallet, my lord ; and thou, Michael-a-green, shake 
out the Bull ; and thou, our Noise, blow a point of war, 
that they may be warned. God to aid ! but they be 
ready and speedy ! " 

In sooth even as the pennon of the Bull ran down 
the wind, and the Utterbol horn was winded, the 
Black men-at-arms came on at a trot, and presently 
with a great screeching yell cast their spears into the 
rest, and spurred on all they might, while a half score 
of bowmen who had come out of the thicket bent their 
bows and fell a-shooting. But now the men of Utter- 
bol spurred to meet the foe, and as Redhead cast his 
spear into the rest, he said to Ralph : <c Glad am I 
that thy Lady is anear to see me, for now I worship 
her." 

Therewith the two bands met, and whereas on 
neither side was the armour very stout, some men of 
either band were hurt or slain at once with spear- 
thrust; though, save for Ralph, they did not run 
straight on each other ; but fenced and foined with 
their spears deftly enough. As for Ralph, he smote 
a tall man full on the breast and pierced him through 
and through, and then pulled out the Upmeads blade 
and smote on the right hand and the left, so that none 
came anigh him willingly. 

Shortly to say it, in five minutes' time the Black 
Riders were fleeing all over the field with them of Ut- 
terbol at their heels, and the bowmen ran back again 
into the wood. But one of the foemen as he fled cast 
a javelin at a venture, and who should be before it save 
Ursula, so that she reeled in her saddle, and would 
have fallen downright but for one of the Utterbol 
fellows who stayed her, and got her gently off her 
horse. This Ralph saw not, for he had followed far 



in the chase, and was coming back somewhat slowly 
along with Redhead, who was hurt, but not sorely. 
So when he came up, and saw Ursula sitting on the 
grass with four or five men about her, he sickened for 
fear ; but she rose up and came slowly and pale-faced 
to meet him, and said : " Fear not, beloved, for steel 
kept out steel : I have no scratch of point or edge on 
me." So therewith he kissed her, and embraced her, 
and was glad. 

The Utterbol Riders had slain sixteen of their foe- 
men ; for they took none to mercy, and four of their 
band were slain outright, and six hurt, but not grie- 
vously. So they tarried awhile on the field of deed 
to rest them and tend their wounded men, and so rode 
on again heedfully. 

But Redhead spake : " It is good to see thee tilt- 
ing, King's Son. I doubt me I shall never learn thy 
downright thrust. Dost thou remember how sorry a 
job I made of it, when we met in the lists at Vale 
Turris that other day? " 

" Yea, yea," said Ralph. " Thou were best let that 
flea stick on the wall. For to-day, at least, I have 
seen thee play at sharps deftly enough." 

Quoth Redhead : " Lord, it is naught, a five 
minutes' scramble. That which trieth a man, is to 
fight and overcome, and straight have to fight with 
fresh foemen, and yet again, till ye long for dark night 
to cover you yea, or even death." 

" Warrior-like and wisely thou speakest," said Ralph ; 
<c and whoever thou servest thou shalt serve well. 
And now once more I would it were me." 

Redhead shook his head at that word, and said: "I 
would it might be so ; but it will not be so as now." 
Forth on they rode, and slept in a wood that night, 
keeping good watch ; but saw no more of the Black 
Riders for that time. 

On a day thereafter when it was nigh evening, Ralph 
132 



looked about, and saw a certain wood on the edge of 
a plain, and he stayed Ursula, and said : " Look round 
about, beloved ; for this is the very field whereas I was 
betrayed into the hands of the men of Utterbol." She 
smiled on him and said : " Let me light down then, 
that I may kiss the earth of that kind field, where thou 
wert not stayed over long, but even long enough that 
we might meet in the dark wood thereafter." 

" Sweetling," said Ralph, u this mayst thou do and 
grieve no man, not even for a little. For lo you ! the 
captain is staying the sumpter- beasts, and it is his mind, 
belike, that we shall sleep in yonder wood to-night. 
Therewith he lighted down and she in likewise : then 
he took her by the hand and led her on a few yards, 
and said : " Lo, beloved, this quicken-tree ; hereby it 
was that the tent was pitched wherein I lay the night 
when I was taken." 

She looked on him shyly and said : " Wilt thou not 
sleep here once more to-night ? " 

" Yea, well-beloved/' said he, " I will bid them 
pitch thy tent on this same place, that I may smell the 
wild thyme again, as I did that other while." 

So there on the field of his ancient grief they rested 
that night in all love and content. 



CHAPTER VIII. OF GOLDBURG AGAIN, 
AND THE QUEEN THEREOF. 

NEXT day they went forth through the country 
where-through Morfinn had led Ralph into 
captivity ; and Redhead rode warily ; for there 
were many passes which looked doubtful : but whether 
the ill men feared to meddle with them, or however 
it were, none waylaid them, and they all came safely 
to the gate of Goldburg, the towers whereof were full 
of folk looking forth on them. So they displayed 

133 



their pennon, and rode into the street, where folk 
pressed about them in friendly wise ; for the new Lord 
of Utterbol had made firm and fast peace with Gold- 
burg. So they rode to the hostel, and gat them victual, 
and rested in peace that night. But Ralph wondered 
whether the Queen would send for him when she 
heard of his coming back again, and he hoped that 
she would let him be ; for he was ashamed when he 
thought of her love for him, and how that he had 
clean forgotten her till he was close to Goldburg 
again. 

But when morning was come Ralph spake to Red- 
head and asked him how he should do to wage men 
for the homeward journey on thence ; and Redhead 
said : u I have already seen the Clerk of the Porte, and 
he will be here in an hour with the license for thee to 
wage men to go with thee to C heaping Knowe. As 
for me, I must needs go see the King, and give him 
a letter sealed by my lord's hand ; and when I come 
back from him, I will go round to the alehouses which 
be haunted of the men-at-arms to see after strong 
carles for thine avail. But to the King hast thou no 
need to go, save he send for thee, whereas thou art not 
come hither to chaffer, and he needeth not men of 



war." 



Ralph stared at him and said : " The King, sayst 
thou ? is there no Queen of Goldburg ? " Said Red- 
head : " There is the King's wedded wife, but her they 
call not Queen, but Lady." " But the Queen that 
was," said Ralph, " where is she then ? " " Yea truly," 
said Redhead, " a Queen sat alone as ruler here a while 
ago ; but whether she died, or what befell her, I know 
nothing. I had little to do with Goldburg till our 
lord conquered Utterbol. Lo here the host ! he may 
tell thee the tale thereof." 

Therewith he departed, and left Ralph with the 
host, whom Ralph questioned of the story, for his 

134 



heart was wrung lest such a fair woman and so friendly 
should have come to harm. 

So the host sat down by Ralph and said : " My 
master, this is a tale which is grievous to us: for 
though the saints forbid I should say a word against 
my lord that is now, nor is there any need to, yet we 
deemed us happy to be under so dear a lady and so 
good and fair as she was. Well, she is gone so that 
we wot not whether she be living or dead. For so it 
is that in the early spring, somewhat more than a year 
ago that is, one morning when folk arose, the 
Queen's place was empty. Riding and running there 
was about and about, but none the more was she 
found. Forsooth as time wore, tales were told of what 
wise she left us, and why : but she was gone. Well, 
fair sir, many deemed that though her lineage was 
known by seeming, yet she was of the fairy, and 
needed neither steed nor chariot to go where she would. 
But her women and those that knew her best, deemed 
that whatso she were, she had slain herself, as they 
thought, for some unhappiness of love. For indeed 
she had long gone about sad and distraught, though 
she neither wept, nor would say one Word of her 
sorrow, whatsoever it might be. 

cc But, fair sir, since thou art a stranger, and art 
presently departing from our city, I will tell thee 
a thing. To wit ; one month or so after she had 
vanished away, I held talk with a certain old fisherman 
of our water, and he told me that on that same night 
of her vanishing, as he stood on the water-side handing 
the hawser of his barque, and the sail was all ready to 
to be sheeted home, there came along the shore a 
woman going very swiftly, who, glancing about her, 
as if to see that there was none looking on or prying, 
came up to him, and prayed him in a sweet voice for 
instant passage down the water. Wrapped she was in 
a dark cloak and a cowl over her head, but as she put 

'35 



forth her hand to give him gold, he saw even by the 
light of his lantern that it was exceeding fair, and that 
great gems flashed from the finger-rings, and that there 
was a great gold ring most precious on her arm. 

" He yeasaid her asking, partly because of her gold, 
partly (as he told me) that he feared her, deeming her 
to be of the fairy. Then she stepped over his gang- 
way of one board on to his boat, and as he held the 
lantern low down to light her, lest she should make a 
false step and fall into the water, he noted (quoth he) 
that a golden shoe all begemmed came out from under 
her gown-hem and that the said hem was broidered 
thickly with pearl and jewels. 

" Small was his bark, and he alone with the woman, 
and there was a wind in the March night, and the 
stream is swift betwixt the quays of our city ; so that 
by night and cloud they made much way down the 
water, and at sunrise were sailing through the great 
wood which lieth hence a twenty leagues seaward. So 
when the sun was risen she stood up in the fore part 
of the boat, and bade him turn the barque toward the 
shore, and even as the bows ran upon the sand, she 
leapt out and let the thicket cover her ; nor have any 
of Goldburg seen her since, or the Queen. But for 
my part I deem the woman to have been none other 
than the Queen. Seest thou then ! she is gone : but 
the King Rainald her cousin reigns in her stead, a 
wise man, and a mighty, and no tyrant or skinner of 
the people." 

Ralph heard and pondered, and was exceeding sorry, 
and more had he been but for the joyousness which 
came of the Water of the Well. Howbeit he might 
not amend it : for even were he to seek for the Queen 
and find her, it might well be worse than letting it be. 
For he knew (when he thought of her) that she loved 
him, and how would it be if she might not outwear 
her love, or endure the days of Goldburg, and he far 

136 



away ? This he said to himself, which he might not 
have said to any other soul. 



CHAPTER IX. THEY COME TO CHEAP- 
ING KNOWE ONCE MORE. OF THE KING 
THEREOF. 

TOWARD evening conies Redhead, and tells 
Ralph how he had hired him a dozen men-at- 
arms to follow him well-weaponed to Cheaping 
Knowe : withal he counselled him to take a good gift 
with him to that same town to buy the good will of 
the King there ; who was a close-fist and a cruel lord. 

Afterwards they sat together in the court of that 
fair house before good wine, Ralph and Ursula, and 
Redhead and the Sage of Swevenham, and spake of 
many things, and were merry and kind together. 
But on the morrow Redhead departed from Goldburg 
with his men, and he loth to depart, and they gave him 
farewell lovingly. Thereafter Ralph's new men came 
to him in the hostelry, and he feasted them and did 
well to them, so that they praised him much. Then 
he gat him victuals and sumpter-horses for the journey, 
and bought good store of bows and arrows withal. 
Furthermore he took heed to Redhead's word and 
bought a goodly gift of silver vessel and fine cloth for 
the King of Cheaping Knowe. 

The day after he and his company departed from 
Goldburg toward the mountains, which they passed 
unfought and unwaylaid : partly because they were a 
band of stout men, and partly because a little before 
there had been a great overthrow of the wild men of 
those mountains at the hands of the men of Goldburg 
and the Chapmen ; so that now the mountain-men lay 
close, and troubled none that rode with any force. 

On the way they failed not to pass by the place 



where they had erst found Bull Nosy slain : there they 
saw his howe, heaped up exceeding high, covered in 
with earth, whereon the grass was now beginning to 
grow, and with a great standing stone on the top 
thereof, whereon was graven the image of a bull, with 
a sword thereunder; whereby the wayfarers wotted that 
this had been done in his memory by his brother, the 
new Lord of Utterbol. 

So they came down out of the mountains to White- 
ness, where they had good entertainment, but tarried 
not save for one night, riding their ways betimes to 
Cheaping Knowe: and they came before the gate 
thereof safe and sound on the third day ; and slept in 
the hostelry of the chapmen. On the morrow Ralph 
went up to the King's Castle with but three men un- 
weaponed bearing the gift which he had got for the 
King. Albeit he sent not away his men-at-arms till 
he should know how the King was minded towards 
him. 

As he went he saw in the streets sad tokens of the 
lord's cruel justice, as handless men, fettered, dragging 
themselves about, and folk hung up before chapmen's 
booths, and whipping-cheer, and the pillar, and such 
like. But whereas he might not help he would not 
heed, but came right to the Castle-gate, and entered 
easily when he had told his errand, for gift-bearing 
men are not oftenest withstood. 

He was brought straightway into the great hall, 
where sat the King on his throne amidst the chiefs of 
the Porte, and his captains and sergeants, who were, 
so to say, his barons, though they were not barons of 
lineage, but masterful men who were wise to do his 
bidding. 

As he went up the hall he saw a sort of poor 
caytiffs, women as well as men, led away from the 
high-place in chains by bailiffs and tipstaves ; and he 
doubted not that these were for torments or maiming 



and death; and thought it were well might he do 
them some good. 

Being come to the King, he made his obeisance to 
him, and craved his good will and leave to wage men- 
at-arms to bring him through the mountains. 

The King was a tall man, a proper man of war ; 
long-legged, black bearded, and fierce-eyed. Some 
word he had heard of Ralph's gift, therefore he was 
gracious to him ; he spake and said : <c Thou hast 
come across the mountains a long way, fair Sir; 
prithee on what errand ? " Answered Ralph : <c For 
no errand, lord, save to fare home to mine own land." 
" Where is thine own land ? " said the King, stretch- 
ing out his legs and lying back in his chair. cc West- 
away, lord, many a mile," said Ralph. " Yea," quoth 
the King, <c and how far didst thou go beyond the 
mountains ? As far as Utter bol ? " Said Ralph : 
" Yet further, but not to Utterbol." " Hah ! " said 
the King, " who goeth beyond Utterbol must have a 
great errand ; what was thine ? " 

Ralph thought for a moment, and deemed it best 
to say as little as he might concerning Ursula ; so he 
answered, and his voice grew loud and bold : <c I was 
minded to drink a draught of the WELL at the 
WORLD'S END, and even so I did." As he spake, 
he drew himself up, and his brows were knit a little, 
but his eyes sparkled from under them, and his cheeks 
were bright and rosy. He half drew the sword from 
the scabbard, and sent it back again rattling, so that 
the sound of it went about the hall ; he upreared his 
head and looked around him on this and that one of 
the warriors of the aliens, and he sniffed the air into 
his nostrils as he stood alone amongst them, and set 
his foot down hard on the floor of the King's hall, 
and his armour rattled upon him. 

But the King sat bolt upright in his chair and 
stared in Ralph's face; and the warriors and lords 

139 



and merchants fell back from Ralph and stood in an 
ordered rank on either side of him and bent their 
heads before him. None spoke till the King said 
in a hoarse voice, but lowly and wheedling : <c Tell us, 
fair Sir, what is it that we can do to pleasure thee ? " 

" King," said Ralph, cc I am not here to take gifts 
but to give them rather : yet since thou biddest me I 
will crave somewhat of thee, that thou mayst be the 
more content : and moreover the giving shall cost 
thee nothing : I crave of thee to give me life and limb 
and freedom for the poor folk whom I saw led down 
the hall by thy tipstaves, even now. Give me that 
or nothing." The King scowled, but he spake : 
" This is indeed a little gift of thee to take ; yet to 
none else save thee had I given it." 

Therewith he spake to a man beside him and said : 
" Go thou, set them free, and if any hurt hath befallen 
them thy life shall answer for it. Is it enough, fair 
Sir, and have we thy goodwill ? " Ralph laughed for 
joy of his life and his might, and he answered : " King, 
this is the token of my goodwill ; fear naught of me." 
And he turned to his men, and bade them bring forth 
the gift of Goldburg and open it before the King ; and 
they did so. But when the King cast eyes on the 
wares his face was gladdened, for he was a greedy 
wolf, and whoso had been close to his mouth would 
have heard him mutter : " So mighty ! yet so wealthy !" 
But he thanked Ralph aloud and in smooth words. 
And Ralph made obeisance to him again, and then 
turned and went his ways down the hall, and was glad 
at heart that he had become so mighty a man, for all 
fell back before him and looked on him with worship. 
Howbeit he had looked on the King closely and 
wisely, and deemed that he was both cruel and guileful, 
so that he rejoiced that he had spoken naught of 
Ursula, and he was minded to keep her within gates 
all the while they abode at Cheaping-Knowe. 

140 



When he came to the hostel he called his men-at- 
arms together and asked them how far they would 
follow him, and with one voice they said all that they 
would go with him whereso he would, so that it were 
not beyond reason. So they arrayed them for departure 
on the morrow, and were to ride out of gates about 
mid-morning. So wore the day to evening; but ere 
the night was old came a man asking for Ralph, as one 
who would have a special alms of him, a poor man by 
seeming, and evilly clad. But when Ralph was alone 
with him, the poor man did him to wit that for all his 
seeming wretchedness he was but disguised, and was 
in sooth a man of worship, and one of the Porte. 
Quoth he : "I am of the King's Council, and I must 
needs tell thee a thing of the King : that though he 
was at the first overawed and cowed by the majesty 
of thee, a Friend of the Well, he presently came to 
himself, which was but ill ; so that what for greed, 
what for fear even, he is minded to send men to way- 
lay thee, some three leagues from the town, on your 
way to the mountains, but ye shall easily escape his gin 
now I have had speech of thee ; for ye may take a 
by-road and fetch a compass of some twelve miles, and 

fet aback of the waylayers. Yet if ye escape this 
rst ambush, unless ye are timely in riding early to- 
morrow it is not unlike that he shall send swift riders 
to catch up with you ere ye come to the mountains. 
Now I am come to warn thee hereof, partly because 
I would not have so fair a life spilt, which should yet 
do so well for the sons of Adam, and partly also 
because I would have a reward of thee for my warn- 
ing and my wayleading, for I shall show thee the way 
and the road." 

Said Ralph : " Ask and fear not ; for if I may 
trust thee I already owe thee a reward." " My name 
is Michael-a-dale," said the man, cc and from Sweven- 
ham I came hither, and fain would I go thither, and 

141 



little hope I have thereof save I go privily in some 
such band as thine, whereas the tyrant holdeth me 
here on pain, as well I know, of an evil death." 

cf I grant thine asking, friend/' said Ralph ; " and 
now thou wert best go to thine house and truss what 
stuff thou mayst have with thee and come back hither 
in the grey of the morning." 

The man shook his head and said : " Nay ; here 
must I bide night-long, and go out of gates amongst 
thy men-at-arms, and clad like one of them with iron 
enough about me to hide the fashion of me ; it were 
nowise safe for me to go back into the town ; for this 
tyrant wages many a spy : yea, forsooth, I fear me by 
certain tokens that it is not all so certain that I have 
not been spied upon already, and that it is known 
that I have come to thee. And I will tell thee that 
by hook or by crook the King already knoweth 
somewhat of thee and of the woman who is in thy 
company." 

Ralph flushed red at that word, and felt his heart 
bound : but even therewith came into them the Sage ; 
and straightway Ralph took him apart and told him 
on what errand the man was come, and asked him if 
he deemed him trusty. Then the Sage went up to 
Michael and looked him hard in the face awhile, and 
then said : cc Yea, honest he is unless the kindred of 
Michael of the Hatch of Swevenham have turned 
thieves in the third generation." 

" Yea," said Michael, " and dost thou know the 
Hatch?" 

" As I know mine own fingers," said the Sage ; 
" and even so I knew it years and years before thou 
wert born." Therewith he told the new-comer what 
he was, and the two men of Swevenham made joy of 
each other. And Ralph was fain of them, and went 
into the chamber wherein sat Ursula, and told her 
how all things were going, and she said that she would 

142 



be naught but glad to leave that town, which seemed 
to her like to Utterbol over again. 



CHAPTER X. AN ADVENTURE ON THE 
WAY TO THE MOUNTAINS. 

ON the morrow Ralph got his men together 
betimes and rode out a-gates, and was little 
afraid that any should meddle with him 
within the town or anigh it, and even so it turned 
out. But Michael rode in the company new clad, and 
with his head and face all hidden in a wide sallet. 
As for Ralph and Ursula, they were exceeding glad, 
and now that their heads were turned to the last great 
mountains, it seemed to them that they were verily 
going home, and they longed for the night, that they 
might be alone together, and talk of all these matters 
in each others' arms. 

When they were out a-gates, they rode for two 
miles along the highway, heedlessly enough by seem- 
ing, and then, as Michael bade, turned suddenly into 
a deep and narrow lane, and forth on, as it led betwixt 
hazelled banks and coppices of small wood, skirting 
the side of the hills, so that it was late in the afternoon 
before they came into the Highway again, which was 
the only road leading into the passes of the mountains. 
Then said Michael that now by all likelihood they had 
beguiled the waylayers for that time ; so they went on 
merrily till half the night was worn, when they shifted 
for lodging in a little oak-wood by the wayside. There 
they lay not long, but were afoot betimes in the morn- 
ing, and rode swiftly daylong, and lay down at night 
on the wayside with the less dread because they were 
come so far without hurt. 

But on the third day, somewhat after noon, when 
they were come up above the tilled upland and the 
land was rough and the ways steep, there lay before 

*43 



them a dark wood swallowing up the road. There- 
about Ralph deemed that he saw weapons glittering 
ahead, but was not sure, for as clear-sighted as he was. 
So he stayed his band, and had Ursula into the rear- 
ward, and bade all men look to their weapons, and 
then they went forward needfully and in good order, 
and presently not only Ralph, but all of them could see 
men standing in the jaws of the pass with the wood on 
either side of them, and though at first they doubted 
if these were aught but mere strong-thieves, such 
as any wayfarers might come on, they had gone but a 
little further when Michael knew them for the riders 
of Cheaping Knowe. " Yea," said the Sage of Swe- 
venham, "it is clear how it has been : when they found 
that we came not that first morning, they had an ink- 
ling of what had befallen, and went forward toward 
the mountains, and not back to Cheaping Knowe, and 
thus outwent us while we were fetching that compass 
to give them the go-by : wherefore I deem that some 
great man is with them, else had they gone back to 
town for new orders." 

cc Well," said Ralph, " then will they be too many 
for us ; so now will I ride ahead and see if we may 
have peace." Said the Sage, " Yea, but be wary, for 
thou hast to do with the guileful." 

Then Ralph rode on alone till he was come within 
hail of those waylayers. Then he thrust his sword 
into the sheath, and cried out : " Will any of the 
warriors in the wood speak with me ; for I am the 
captain of the wayfarers ? " 

Then rode out from those men a very tall man, and 
two with him, one on either side, and he threw back 
the sallet from his face, and said : " Wayfarer, all we 
have weapons in our hands, and we so many that thou 
and thine will be in regard of us as the pips to the 
apple. Wherefore, yield ye !" Quoth Ralph :" Unto 
whom then shall I yield me ? " Said the other : <c To 

144 



the men of the King of Cheaping Knowe." Then 
spake Ralph : u What will ye do with us when we are 
y olden ? Shall we not pay ransom and go our ways ? " 
<c Yea," said the tall man, " and this is the ransom : 
that ye give up into my hands my dastard who hath 
bewrayed me, and the woman who wendeth in your 
company." 

Ralph laughed; for by this time he knew the voice 
of the King, yea, and the face of him under his sallet. 
So he cried back in answer, and in such wise as if the 
words came rather from his luck than from his youth : 
" Ho, Sir King ! beware, beware ! lest thou tremble 
when thou seest the bare blade of the Friend of the 
Well more than thou trembledst erst, when the blade 
was hidden in the sheath before the throne of thine 
hall." 

But the King cried out in a loud harsh voice; 
cc Thou, young man, beware thou ! and try not thy 
luck overmuch. We are as many as these trees, and 
thou canst not prevail over us. Go thy ways free, and 
leave me what thou canst not help leaving." 

cc Yea, fool," cried Ralph, " and what wilt thou do 
with these two ? " 

Said the King : " The traitor I will flay, and the 
woman I will bed." 

Scarce were the words out of his mouth ere Ralph 
gave forth a great cry and drew his sword, set spurs 
to his horse, and gallopped on up the road with all 
his band at his back, for they had drawn anigh amidst 
this talk. But or ever they came on the foemen, they 
heard a great confused cry of onset mingled with 
affright, and lo ! the King threw up his arms, and fell 
forward on his horse's neck with a great arrow through 
his throat. 

Ralph drave on sword in hand, crying out, cc Home, 
home to Upmeads ! " and anon was amidst of the foe 
smiting on either hand. His men followed, shouting : 

n. 145 L 



<c Ho, for the Friend of the Well ! " And amongst 
the foemen, who were indeed very many, was huge 
dismay, so that they made but a sorry defence before 
the band of the wayfarers, who knew not what to 
make of it, till they noted that arrows and casting- 
spears were coming out of the wood on either side, 
which smote none of them, but many of the foemen. 
Short was the tale, for in a few minutes there were no 
men of the foe together save those that were fleeing 
down the road to Cheaping Knowe. 

Ralph would not suffer his men to follow the chase, 
for he wotted not with whom he might have to deal 
besides the King's men. He drew his men together 
and looked round for Ursula, and saw that the Sage 
had brought her up anigh him, and there she sat 
a-horseback, pale and panting with the fear of death 
and the joy of deliverance. 

Now Ralph cried out from his saddle in a loud 
voice, and said : cc Ho ye of the arrows of the wood ! 
ye have saved me from my foemen ; where be ye, and 
what be ye ? " Came a loud voice from out of the 
wood on the right hand : cc Children, tell the warrior 
whose sons ye be ! " Straightway brake out a huge 
bellowing on either side of the road, as though the 
wood were all full of great neat. 

Then cried out Ralph : " If ye be of the kindred 
of the Bull, ye will belike be my friends rather than my 
foes. Or have ye heard tell of Ralph of Upmeads ? 
Now let your captain come forth and speak with me." 

Scarce were the words out of his mouth ere a man 
came leaping forth from out the wood, and stood 
before Ralph in the twilight of the boughs, and Ralph 
noted of him that he was clad pretty much like to 
Bull Shockhead of the past time, save that he had a 
great bull's head for a helm (which afterwards Ralph 
found out was of iron and leather) and a great gold 
ring on his arm. 

146 



Then Ralph thrust his sword back into the sheath, 
and his folk handled their weapons peaceably, while 
Ralph hailed the new-comer as Lord or Duke of the 
Bulls. 

" Belike," quoth the said chieftain, " thou wouldst 
wish to show me some token, whereby we may wot 
that thou art that Friend of the Well and of our kins- 
man concerning whom he sent us a message/' 

Then Ralph bethought him of the pouch with the 
knot of grass therein which Bull Shockhead had given 
him at Goldburg ; so he drew it out, and gave it into 
the hand of the chieftain, who no sooner caught a 
glimpse thereof than he said : <c Verily our brother's 
hand hath met thine when he gave thee this. Yet 
forsooth, now that I look on thee, I may say that scarce 
did I need token to tell me that thou wert the 
very man. For I can see thee, that thou art of great 
honour and worship, and thou didst ride boldly against 
the foemen when thou knewest not that we had way- 
laid thy way layers. Now I wot that there is no need 
to ask thee whether thou wouldst get thee out of 
our mountains by the shortest road, yet wilt thou 
make it little longer, and somewhat safer, if ye will 
suffer us to lead thee by way of our dwelling." So 
Ralph yeasaid his bidding without more words. 

As they spake thus together the road both above 
and below was become black with weaponed men, and 
some of Ralph's band looked on one another, as 
though they doubted their new friends somewhat. 
But the Sage of Swevenham spoke to them and bade 
them fear nought. " For," said he, " so far as we go, 
who are now their friends, there is no guile in these 
men." The Bull captain heard him and said : c< Thou 
sayest sooth, old man ; and I shall tell thee that scarce 
had a band like thine come safe through the moun- 
tains, save by great good luck, without the leave of 
us ; for the fool with the crown that lieth there dead 

X47 



had of late days so stirred up the Folks of the Fells 
through his grimness and cruelty that we have been 
minded to stop everything bigger than a cur-dog that 
might seek to pass by us, for at least so long as yonder 
rascal should live. But ye be welcome ; so now let 
us to the road, for the day weareth." 

So the tribesmen gat them into order, and their 
Duke went on the left side of Ralph, while Ursula rode 
on his right hand. The Duke and all his men were 
afoot, but they went easily and swiftly, as wolves trot. 
As for the slain of the waylayers, of whom there were 
some threescore, the Bull captain would do nought 
but let them lie on the road. <c For," said he, tc there 
be wolves and lynxes enough in the wood, and the 
ravens of the uplands, and the kites shall soon scent 
the carrion. They shall have burial soon enough. 
Neither will we meddle with it ; nay, not so much as 
to hang the felon King's head at thy saddle-bow, 
lord." 

By sunset they were out of the wood and on the 
side of a rough fell, so they went no further, but 
lighted fires at the edge of the thicket, and made 
merry round about them, singing their songs concern- 
ing the deeds of their folk, and jesting withal, but not 
foully ; and they roasted venison of hart and hind at 
the fires, and they had with them wine, the more part 
whereof they had found in the slain King's carriages, 
and they made great feast to the wayfarers, and were 
exceeding fain of them ; after their fashion, whereas 
if a man were their friend he could scarce be enough 
their friend, and if he were their foe, they could never 
be fierce enough with him. 



148 



CHAPTER XL THEY COME THROUGH 
THE MOUNTAINS INTO THE PLAIN. 

ON the morrow early they all fared on together, 
and thereafter they went for two days more 
till they came into a valley amidst of the 
mountains which was fair and lovely, and therein was 
the dwelling or town of this Folk of the Fells. It was 
indeed no stronghold, save that it was not easy to find, 
and that the way thither was well defensible were foe- 
men to try it. The houses thereof were artless, the 
chiefest of them like to the great barn of an abbey in 
our land, the others low and small ; but the people, 
both men and women, haunted mostly the big house. 
As for the folk, they were for the more part like those 
whom they had met afore : strong men, but not high of 
stature, black-haired, with blue or grey eyes, cheerful 
of countenance, and of many words. Their women were 
mostly somewhat more than comely, smiling, kind of 
speech, but not suffering the caresses of aliens. They 
saw no thralls amongst them ; and when Ralph asked 
hereof, how that might be, since they were men-catchers, 
they told him that when they took men and women, as 
oft they did, they always sold them for what they would 
bring to the plain-dwellers ; or else slew them, or held 
them to ransom, but never brought them home to 
their stead. Howbeit, when they took children, as 
whiles befell, they sometimes brought them home, and 
made them very children of their Folk with many un- 
couth prayers and worship of their Gods, who were 
indeed, as they deemed, but forefathers of the Folk. 

Now Ralph, he and his, being known for friends, 
these wild men could not make enough of them, and 
as it were, compelled them to abide there three days, 
feasting them, and making them all the cheer they 
might. And they showed the wayfarers their manner 
of hunting, both of the hart and the boar, and of wild 

149 



bulls also. At first Ralph somewhat loathed all this 
(though he kept a pleasant countenance toward his 
host), for sorely he desired the fields of Upmeads and 
his father's house. But at last when the hunt was up 
in the mountains, and especially of the wild bulls, the 
heart and the might in him so arose that he enforced 
himself to do well, and the wild men wondered at his 
prowess, whereas he was untried in their manner of 
sports, and they deemed him one of the Gods, and 
said that their kinsman had done well to get him so 
good a friend. Both Ursula and the Sage withheld 
them from this hunting, and Ursula abode with the 
women, who told her much of their ways of life, and 
stories of old time ; frank and free they were, and loved 
her much, and she was fain of such manly-minded 
women after the sleight and lies of the poor thralls of 
Utterbol. 

On the fourth day the wayfarers made them ready 
and departed ; and the chief of the Folk went with 
them with a chosen band of weaponed men, partly for 
the love of his guests, and partly that he might see the 
Goldburg men-at-arms safe back to the road unto the 
plain and the Midhouse of the Mountains, for they 
went now by other ways, which missed the said House. 
On this journey naught befell to tell of, and they all 
came down safe into the plain. 

There the Goldburg men took their wage, and bid- 
ding farewell, turned back with the wild men, praising 
Ralph much for his frankness and open hand. As for 
the wild men, they exceeded in their sorrow for the 
parting, and many of them wept and howled as though 
they had seen him die before their faces. But all that 
came to an end, and presently their cheer was amended, 
and their merry speech and laughter came down from 
the pass unto the wayfarers 1 ears as each band rode its 
way. 



150 



CHAPTER XII. THE ROADS SUNDER 
AGAIN. 

RALPH and Ursula, with the Sage and Michael- 
a-dale went their ways, and all was smooth 
with them, and they saw but few folk, and 
those mild and lowly. At last, of an afternoon, they 
saw before them afar off the towers and pinnacles of 
Whitwall, and Ralph's heart rose within him, so that 
he scarce knew how to contain himself; but Ursula 
was shy and silent, and her colour came and went, as 
though some fear had hold of her. Now they two 
were riding on somewhat ahead of the others, so Ralph 
turned to Ursula, and asked what ailed her. She 
smiled on him and said : "A simple sickness. I am 
drawing nigh to thy home, and I am ashamed. Be- 
yond the mountains, who knew what and whence I 
was ? I was fair, and for a woman not unvaliant, and 
that was enough. But now when I am coming amongst 
the baronages and the lineages, what shall I do to hold 
up my head before the fools and the dastards of these 
high kindreds ? And that all the more, my knight, 
because thou art changed since yester-year, and since 
we met on the want- way of the Wood Perilous, when 
I bade thee remember that thou wert a King's son and 
I a yeoman's daughter ; for then thou wert but a lad, 
high-born and beautiful, but simple maybe, and un- 
tried ; whereas now thou art meet to sit in the Kaiser's 
throne and rule the world from the Holy City." 

He laughed gaily and said : " What ! is it all so 
soon forgotten, our deeds beyond the Mountains? 
Belike because we had no minstrel to rhyme it for us. 
Or is it all but a dream ? and has the last pass of the 
mountains changed all that for us? What then! 
hast thou never become my beloved, nor lain in one 
bed with me ? Thou whom I looked to deliver from 
the shame and the torment of Utter bol, never didst 

'5 1 



thou free thyself without my helping, and meet me in 
the dark wood, and lead me to the Sage who rideth 
yonder behind us ! No, nor didst thou ride fearless 
with me, leaving the world behind; nor didst thou 
comfort me when my heart went nigh to breaking in 
the wilderness ! Nor thee did I deliver as I saw thee 
running naked from the jaws of death. Nor were we 
wedded in the wilderness far from our own folk. Nor 
didst thou deliver me from the venom of the Dry 
Tree. Yea verily, nor did we drink together of the 
Water of the Well ! It is all but tales of Sweven- 
ham, a blue vapour hanging on the mountains yon- 
der ! So be it then ! And here we ride together, 
deedless, a man and a maid of whom no tale may be 
told. What next then, and who shall sunder us ? " 

Therewith he drew his sword from the sheath, and 
tossed it into the air, and caught it by the hilts as it 
came down, and he cried out : cc Hearken, Ursula ! 
By my sword I swear it, that when I come home to 
the little land, if my father and my mother and all my 
kindred fall not down before thee and worship thee, 
then will I be a man without kindred, and I will turn 
my back on the land I love, and the House wherein 
I was born, and will win for thee and me a new kin- 
dred that all the world shall tell of. So help me Saint 
Nicholas, and all Hallows, and the Mother of God !" 

She looked on him with exceeding love, and said : 
tc Ah, beloved, how fair thou art ! Is it not as I said, 
yea, and more, that now lieth the world at thy feet, 
if thou wilt stoop to pick it up ? Believe me, sweet, 
all folk shall see this as I see it, and shall judge 
betwixt thee and me, and deem me naught." 

" Beloved," he said, " thou dost not wholly know 
thyself; and I deem that the mirrors of steel serve thee 
but ill ; and now must thou have somewhat else for a 
mirror, to wit, the uprising and increase of trouble 
concerning thee and thy fairness, and the strife of 

152 



them that love thee overmuch, who shall strive to 
take thee from me ; and then the blade that hath seen 
the Well at the World's End shall come out of his 
sheath and take me and thee from the hubbub, and 
into the quiet fields of my father's home, and then 
shalt thou be learned of thyself, when thou seest that 
thou art the desire of all hearts." 

" Ah, the wisdom of thee," she said, " and thy 
valiancy, and I am become feeble and foolish before 
thee! What shall I do then?" 

He said : " Many a time shall it be shown what 
thou shalt do ; but here and now is the highway dry 
and long, and the plain meads and acres on either 
hand, and a glimmer of Whitwall afar off, and the 
little cloud of dust about us two in the late spring 
weather ; and the Sage and Michael riding behind us, 
and smiting dust from the hard road. And now if 
this also be a dream, let it speedily begone, and let us 
wake up in the ancient House at Upmeads, which 
thou hast never seen and thou and I in each other's 
arms." 



CHAPTER XIII. THEY COME TO WHIT- 
WALL AGAIN. 

HEREWITH they were come to a little thorp 
where the way sundered, for the highway 
went on to Whitwall, and a byway turned off 
to Swevenham. Thereby was a poor hostel, where, 
they stayed and rested for the night, because even- 
ing was at hand. So when those four had eaten 
and drunk there together, Ralph spoke and said : 
" Michael-a-dale, thou art for Swevenham to-mor- 
row?" "Yea, lord," said Michael, "belike I shall 
yet find kindred there ; and I call to thy mind that I 
craved of thee to lead me to Swevenham as payment 
for all, if I had done aught for thy service." 



cc Sooth is that," said Ralph, " thou shalt go with 
my goodwill; and, as I deem, thou shalt not lack 
company betwixt here and Swevenham, whereas our 
dear friend here, the friend of thy father's father, is 
going the same road." 

Then the Sage of Swevenham leaned across the 
board, and said : u What word hath come out of thy 
mouth, my son ? " Said Ralph, smiling on him : c< It 
is the last word which we have heard from thee of this 
matter, though verily it was spoken a while ago. 
What wilt thou add to it as now ? " c< This," quoth the 
Sage, "that I will leave thee no more till thoubiddest 
me go from thee. Was this word needful ? " 

Ralph reached his hand to him and said : " It is 
well and more ; but the road hence to Upmeads may 
yet be a rough one." " Yea," said the Sage, " yet 
shall we come thither all living, unless my sight now 
faileth." 

Then Ursula rose up and came to the old man, 
and cast her arms about him and said : " Yea, father, 
come with us, and let thy wisdom bless our roof-tree. 
Wilt thou not teach our children wisdom ; yea, maybe 
our children's children, since thou art a friend of the 
Well?" 

" I know not of the teaching of wisdom," said the 
Sage ; " but as to my going with thee, it shall be as I 
said e'en-now ; and forsooth I looked for this bidding 
of thee to make naught of the word which I spoke 
ere yet I had learned wisdom of thee." 

Therewith were they merry, and fain of each other, 
and the evening wore amidst great content. 

But when morning was come they gat to horse, and 
Ralph spake to Michael and said: cc Well, friend, 
now must thou ride alone to thy kindred, and may 
fair days befall thee in Swevenham. But if thou 
deem at any time that matters go not so well with 
thee as thou wouldst, then turn thine head to Up- 

154 



meads, and try it there, and we shall further thee all 
we may." 

Then came the Sage to Michael as he sat upon his 
horse, a stalwarth man of some forty winters, and 
said : <c Michael-a-dale, reach me thine hand." So did 
he, and the Sage looked into the palm thereof, and 
said : " This man shall make old bones, and it is more 
like than not, King's son, that he shall seek to thee at 
Upmeads ere he die." Said Ralph : " His coming 
shall be a joy to us, how pleasant soever our life may be 
otherwise. Farewell, Michael ! all good go with thee 
for thine wholesome redes/' 

So then Michael gave them farewell, and rode his 
ways to Swevenham, going hastily, as one who should 
hurry away from a grief. 

But the three held on their way to Whitwall, and 
it was barely noon when they came to the gate thereof 
on a Saturday of latter May. It was a market-day, 
and the streets were thronged, and they looked on 
the folk and were fain of them, since they seemed to 
them to be something more than aliens. The folk 
also looked on them curiously, and deemed them 
goodly, both the old man and the two knights, for they 
thought no otherwise of Ursula than that she was a 
carle. 

But now as they rode, slowly because of the crowd, 
up Petergate, they heard a cry of one beside them, as 
of a man astonished but joyful ; so Ralph drew rein, 
and turned thither whence the cry came, and Ursula 
saw a man wide-shouldered, grey-haired, blue-eyed, 
aud ruddy of countenance a man warrior-like to 
look on, and girt with a long sword. Ralph lighted 
down from his horse, and met the man, who was 
coming toward him, cast his arms about his neck, and 
kissed him, and lo, it was Richard the Red. The 
people round about, when they saw it, clapped their 
hands, and crowded about the two crying out : " Hail 

155 



to the friends long parted, and now united!" But 
Richard, whom most knew, cried out : " Make way, 
my masters ! will ye sunder us again ? " Then he 
said to Ralph : <c Get into thy saddle, lad ; for surely 
thou hast a tale to tell overlong for the open street." 

Ralph did as he was bidden, and without more ado 
they went on all toward that hostelry where Ralph 
had erst borne the burden of grief. Richard walked by 
Ralph's side, and as he went he said : " Moreover, lad, 
I can see that thy tale is no ill one ; therefore my heart 
is not wrung for thee or me, though I wait for it a 
while." Then again he said : " Thou doest well to 
hide her loveliness in war-weed even in this town of 
peace. 1 ' 

Ursula reddened, and Richard laughed and said : 
" Well, it is a fair rose which thou hast brought from 
east-away. There will be never another couple in these 
parts like to you. Now I see the words on thy lips ; 
so I tell thee that Blaise thy brother is alive and well 
and happy ; which last word means that his coffer is 
both deep and full. Forsooth, he would make a poor 
bargain in buying any kingship that I wot of, so rich 
he is, yea, and mighty withal." 

Said Ralph : " And how went the war with Walter 
the Black ? " 

Even as he spake his face changed, for he bethought 
him over closely of the past days, and his dream of 
the Lady of Abundance and of Dorothea, who rode by 
him now as Ursula. But Richard spake : " Short is 
the tale to tell. I slew him in shock of battle, and his 
men craved peace of the good town. Many were glad 
of his death, and few sorrowed for it ; for, fair as his 
young body was, he was a cruel tyrant." 

Therewith were they come to the hostel of the 
Lamb, which was the very same house wherein Ralph 
had abided aforetime ; and as he entered it, it is not 
to be said but that inwardly his heart bled for the 

156 



old sorrow. Ursula looked on him lovingly and 
blithely ; and when they were within doors Richard 
turned to the Sage and said : " Hail to thee, reverend 
man ! wert thou forty years older to behold, outworn 
and forgotten of death, I should have said that thou 
wert like to the Sage that dwelt alone amidst the 
mountains nigh to Swevenham when I was a little lad, 
and fearsome was the sight of thee unto me." 

The Sage laughed and said : " Yea, somewhat like 
am I yet to myself of forty years ago. Good is thy 
memory, grey-beard." 

Then Richard shook his head, and spake under his 
breath : " Yea, then it was no dream or coloured 
cloud, and he hath drunk of the waters, and so then 
hath my dear lord." Then he looked up bright- 
faced, and called on the serving-men, and bade one lead 
them into a fair chamber, and another go forth and 
provide a banquet to be brought in thither. So they 
went up into a goodly chamber high aloft ; and Ursula 
went forth from it awhile, and came back presently 
clad in very fair woman's raiment, which Ralph had 
bought for her at Goldburg. Richard looked on her 
and nothing else for a while ; then he walked about 
the chamber uneasily, now speaking with the Sage, 
now with Ursula, but never with Ralph. At last he 
spake to Ursula, and said : " Grant me a grace, lady, 
and be not wroth if I take thy man into the window 
yonder that I may talk with him privily while ye hold 
converse together, thou and the Sage of Swevenham." 

She laughed merrily and said : " Sir nurse, take thy 
bantling and cosset him in whatso corner thou wilt, 
and I will turn away mine eyes from thy caresses." 

So Richard took Ralph into a window, and sat down 
beside him and said : " Mayhappen I shall sadden thee 
by my question, but I mind me what our last talking 
together was about, and therefore I must needs ask 
thee this, was that other one fairer than this one is ?" 

'57 



Ralph knit his brows: "I wot not/* quoth he, 
"since she is gone, that other one." 

" Yea," said Richard, " but this I say, that she is 
without a blemish. Did ye drink of the Well toge- 
ther?" 

" Yea, surely," said Ralph. Said Richard : " And 
is this woman of a good heart ? Is she valiant ? " 
" Yea, yea," said Ralph, flushing red. 

"As valiant as was that other?" said Richard. 
Said Ralph : c< How may I tell, unless they were tried 
in one way ? " Yet Richard spake : " Are ye wedded ? " 
" Even so," said Ralph. 

"Dost thou deem her true?" said Richard. 
" Truer than myself," said Ralph, in a voice which 
was somewhat angry. 

Quoth Richard: "Then is it better than well, 
and better than well ; for now hast thou wedded into 
the World of living men, and not to a dream of the 
Land of Fairy ." 

Ralph sat silent a little, and as if he were swallow- 
ing somewhat ; at last he said : cc Old friend, I were 
well content if thou wert to speak such words no 
more ; for it irks me, and woundeth my heart. " 

Said Richard : " Well, I will say no more thereof; 
be content therefore, for now I have said it, and thou 
needest not fear me, what I have to say thereon any 
more ; and thou mayst well wot that I must needs 
have said somewhat of this." 

Ralph nodded to him friendly, and even therewith 
came in the banquet, which was richly served, as for a 
King's son, and wine was poured forth of the best, 
and they feasted and were merry. And then Ralph 
told all the tale of his wanderings how it had betid, 
bringing in all that Ursula had told him of Utterbol ; 
while as for her she put in no word of it. So that at 
last Ralph, being wishful to hear her tell somewhat, 
made more of some things than was really in them, so 

158 



that she might set him right ; but no word more she 
said for all that, but only smiled on him now and 
again, and sat blushing like a rose over her golden- 
flowered gown, while Richard looked on her and 
praised her in his heart exceedingly. 

But when Ralph had done the story (which was 
long, so that by then it was over it had been dark 
night some while), Richard said : " Well, fosterling, 
thou hast seen much, and done much, and many 
would say that thou art a lucky man, and that more 
and much more lieth ready to thine hand. Whither 
now wilt thou wend, or what wilt thou do ? " 

Ralph's face reddened, as its wont had been when 
it was two years younger, at contention drawing nigh, 
and he answered : " Where then should I go save to 
the House of my Fathers, and the fields that fed them? 
What should I do but live amongst my people, ward- 
ing them from evil, and loving them and giving them 
good counsel? For wherefore should I love them less 
than heretofore? Have they become dastards, and 
the fools of mankind ? " 

Quoth Richard : " They are no more fools than 
they were belike, nor less valiant. But thou art 
grown wiser and mightier by far; so that thou art 
another manner man than thou wert, and the Master 
of Masters maybe. To Upmeads wilt thou go ; but 
wilt thou abide there ? Upmeads is a fair land, but a 
narrow; one day is like another there, save when 
sorrow and harm is blent with it. The world is wide, 
and now I deem that thou holdest the glory thereof 
in the hollow of thine hand." 

Then spake the Sage, and said : " Yea, Richard of 
Swevenham, and how knowest thou but that this 
sorrow and trouble have not now fallen upon Up- 
meads ? And if that be so, upon whom should they 
call to their helping rather than him who can help 
them most, and is their very lord ? " Said Richard : 

*59 



" It may be so, wise man, though as yet we have 
heard no tidings thereof. But if my lord goeth to 
their help, yet, when the trouble shall be over, will he 
not betake him thither where fresh deeds await him ? " 

cc Nay, Richard," said the Sage, " art thou so little a 
friend of thy fosterling as not to know that when he 
hath brought back peace to the land, it will be so that 
both he shall need the people, and they him, so that if 
he go away for awhile, yet shall he soon come back? 
Yea, and so shall the little land, it may be, grow 
great." 

Now had Ralph sat quiet while this talk was going 
on, and as if he heeded not, and his eyes were set as if 
he were beholding something far away. Then Richard 
spoke again after there had been silence awhile : " Wise 
man, thou sayest sooth ; yea, and so it is, that though 
we here have heard no tale concerning war in Up- 
meads, yet, as it were, we have been feeling some 
stirring of the air about us ; even as though matters 
were changing, great might undone, and weakness 
grown to strength. Who can say but our lord may 
find deeds to hand or ever he come to Upmeads ? " 

Ralph turned his head as one awaking from a 
dream, and he said : " When shall to-morrow be, that 
we may get us gone from Whitwall, we three, and 
turn our faces toward Upmeads ? " 

Said Richard : " Wilt thou not tarry a day or two, 
and talk with thine own mother's son and tell him of 
thine haps ?" "Yea," said Ralph, " and so would I, 
were it not that my father's trouble and my mother's 
grief draw me away." 

" O tarry not," said Ursula; " nay, not for the pass- 
ing of the night ; but make this hour the sunrise, and 
begone by the clear of the moon. For lo ! how he 
shineth through the window ! " 

Then she turned to Richard, and said : cc O fosterer 
of my love, knowest thou not that as now he speaketh 

1 60 



as a Friend of the Well, and wotteth more of far-off 
tidings than even this wise man of many years ? " 

Said Ralph : She sayeth sooth, O Richard. Or how 
were it if the torch were even now drawing nigh to the 
High House of Upmeads : yea, or if the very House 
were shining as a dreary candle of the meadows, and 
reddening the waters of the ford ! What do we here ? " 

Therewith he thrust the board from him, and arose 
and went to his harness, and fell to arming him, and 
he spake to Richard: "Now shall thine authority 
open to us the gates of the good town, though the 
night be growing old; we shall go our ways, dear 
friend, and mayhappen we shall meet again, and 
mayhappen not: and thou shalt tell my brother 
Blaise, who wotteth not of my coming hither, how 
things have gone with me, and how need hath drawn 
me hence. And bid him come see me at Upmeads, 
and to ride with a good band of proper men, for 
eschewing the dangers of the road." 

Then spake Richard: "I shall tell Lord Blaise 
neither more nor less than thou mayst tell him thy- 
self : for think it not that thou shalt go without me. 
As for Blaise, he may well spare me ; for he is be- 
come a chief and Lord of the Porte ; and the Porte 
hath now right good men-at-arms, and captains withal 
younger and defter than I be. But now suffer me to 
send a swain for my horse and arms, and another to 
the captain of the watch at West-gate Bar that he be 
ready to open to me and three of my friends, and to 
send me a let-pass for the occasion. So shall we go 
forth ere it be known that the brother of the Lord of 
the Porte is abiding at the Lamb. For verily I see 
that the Lady hath spoken truth ; and it is like that 
she is foreseeing, even as thou hast grown to be. And 
now I bethink me I might lightly get me a score of 
men to ride with us, whereas we may meet men worse 
than ourselves on the way." 

ii. 161 M 



Said Ralph : "All good go with thy words, Richard ; 
yet gather not force : there may stout men be culled 
on the road ; and if thou runnest or ridest about the 
town, we may yet be stayed by Blaise and his men. 
Wherefore now send for thine horse and arms, and 
bid the host here open his gates with little noise when 
we be ready; and we will presently ride out by the 
clear of the moon. But thou, beloved, shalt don thine 
armour no more, but shalt ride henceforth in thy 
woman's raiment, for the wild and the waste is well 
nigh over, and the way is but short after all these 
months of wandering; and I say that now shall all 
friends drift toward us, and they that shall rejoice to 
strike a stroke for my father's son, and the peaceful 
years of the Friend of the Well." 

To those others, and chiefly to Ursula, it seemed 
that now he spoke strongly and joyously, like to a 
king and a captain of men. Richard did his bidding, 
and was swift in dealing with the messengers. But 
the Sage said : " Ralph, my son, since ye have lost one 
man-at-arms, and have gotten but this golden angel in 
his stead, I may better that. I prithee bid thy man 
Richard find me armour and weapons that I may 
amend the shard in thy company. Thou shalt find 
me no feeble man when we come to push of staves." 

Ralph laughed, and bade Richard see to it ; so he 
dealt with the host, and bought good war-gear of him, 
and a trenchant sword, and an axe withal ; and when 
the Sage was armed he looked as doughty a warrior 
as need be. By this time was Richard's horse and 
war-gear come, and he armed him speedily and gave 
money to the host, and they rode therewith all four 
out of the hostel, and found the street empty and still, 
for the night was wearing. So rode they without 
tarrying into Westgate and came to the Bar, and 
speedily was the gate opened to them ; and anon were 
they on the moonlit road outside of Whitwall. 

162 



CHAPTER XIV. THEY RIDE AWAY FROM 
WHITWALL. 

BUT when they were well on the way, and riding 
a good pace by the clear of the moon, Richard 
spake to Ralph, and said : <c Whither ride we 
now ? " said Ralph : Cf Whither, save to Upmeads ? " 
cc Yea, yea," said Richard, "but by what road ? shall 
we ride down to the ford of the Swelling Flood, and 
ride the beaten way, or take to the downland and the 
forest, and so again by the forest and the downland and 
the forest once more, till we come to the Burg of the 
Four Friths?" 

" Which way is the shorter ? " said Ralph. " For- 
sooth," said Richard, " by the wildwood ye may ride 
shorter, if ye know it as I do." Quoth the Sage : 
" Yea, or as I do. Hear a wonder ! that two men of 
Swevenham know the wilds more than twenty miles 
from their own thorp." 

Said Ralph : " Well, wend we the shorter road; why 
make more words over it? Or what lion lieth on 
the path ? Is it that we may find it hard to give the 
go-by to the Burg of the Four Friths ? " 

Said Richard : " Though the Burg be not very far 
from Whitwall, we hear but little tidings thence ; our 
chapmen but seldom go there, and none cometh to 
us thence save such of our men as have strayed thither. 
Yet, as I said e'en now in the hostel, there is an air of 
tidings abroad, and one rumour sayeth, and none 
denieth it, that the old fierceness and stout head- 
strong mood of the Burg is broken down, and that 
men dwell there in peace and quiet." 

Said the Sage : cc In any case we have amongst us 
lore enough to hoodwink them if they be foes ; so that 
we shall pass easily. Naught of this need we fear." 

But Richard put his mouth close to Ralph's ear, and 
spake to him softly : " Shall we indeed go by that 

163 



shorter road, whatever in days gone by may have 
befallen in places thereon, to which we must go a-nigh 
tomorrow ? " Ralph answered softly in turn : cc Yea, 
forsooth : for I were fain to try my heart, how strong 
it may be." 

So they rode on, and turned off from the road that 
led down to the ford of the Swelling Flood, anigh 
which Ralph had fallen in with Blaise and Richard on 
the day after the woeful slaying, which had made an 
end of his joy for that time. But when they were 
amidst of the bushes and riding a deep ghyll of the 
waste, Richard said : {< It is well that we are here : 
for now if Blaise send riders to bring us back cour- 
teously, they shall not follow us at once, but shall ride 
straight down to the ford, and even cross it in search of 
us." " Yea," said Ralph, cc it is well in all wise." 

So then they rode thence awhile till the moon grew 
low, and great, and red, and sank down away from 
them; and by then were they come to a shepherd's 
cot, empty of men, with naught therein save an old 
dog, and some victual, as bread and white cheese, and 
a well for drinking. So there they abode and rested 
that night. 



CHAPTER XV. A STRANGE MEETING IN 
THE WILDERNESS. 

ON the morrow betimes they got to the road 
again ; the country at first, though it was 
scanty of tillage, was not unfurnished of sheep, 
being for the most part of swelling hills and downs 
well grassed, with here and there a deep cleft in them. 
They saw but few houses, and those small and poor. 
A few shepherds they fell in with, who were short of 
speech, after the manner of such men, but deemed a 
greeting not wholly thrown away on such goodly folk 
as those wayfarers. 

164 



So they rode till it was noon, and Richard talked 
more than his wont was, though his daily use it was 
to be of many words : nor did the Sage spare speech ; 
but Ursula spoke little, nor heeded much what the 
others said, and Ralph deemed that she was paler 
than of wont, and her brows were knitted as if she 
were somewhat anxious. As for him, he was grave 
and calm, but of few words ; and whiles when Richard 
was wordiest he looked on him steadily for a moment, 
whereat Richard changed countenance, and for a while 
stinted his speech, but not for long; while Ralph 
looked about him, inwardly striving to gather together 
the ends of unhappy thoughts that floated about him, 
and to note the land he was passing through, if indeed 
he had verily seen it aforetime, elsewhere than in some 
evil dream. 

At last when they stopped to bait by some scrubby 
bushes at the foot of a wide hill-side, he took Richard 
apart, and said to him : " Old friend, and whither 
go we ? " Said Richard : " As thou wottest, to the 
Burg of the Four Friths." cc Yea," said Ralph, " but 
by what road ?" Said Richard : tc Youngling, is not 
thine heart, then, as strong as thou deemedst last 
night ? " Ralph was silent a while, and then he said : 
" I know what thou wouldst say ; we are going by 
the shortest road to the Castle of Abundance." 

He spake this out loud, but Richard nodded his 
head to him, as if he would say : " Yea, so it is ; but 
hold thy peace." But Ralph knew that Ursula had 
come up behind him, and, still looking at Richard, 
he put his open hand aback toward her, and her hand 
fell into it. Then he turned about to her, and saw 
that her face was verily pale ; so he put his hands on 
her shoulders and kissed her kindly ; and she let her 
head fall on to his bosom and fell a-weeping, and the 
two elders turned away to the horses, and feigned to 
be busy with them. 



Thus then they bided some minutes of time, and 
then all gat to horse again, and Ursula's face was 
cleared of the grief of fear, and the colour had come 
back to her cheeks and lips. But Ralph's face was 
stern and sorrowful to behold ; howbeit, as they rode 
away he spake in a loud and seeming cheerful voice : 
" Still ever shorteneth more and more the way unto 
my Fathers' House : and withal I am wishful to see 
if it be indeed true that the men of the Burg have 
become mild and peaceful; and to know what hath 
befallen those doughty champions of the Dry Tree ; 
and if perchance they have any will to hold us a 
tilting in courteous fashion. 

Richard smiled on him, and said : cc Thou boldest 
more then by the Dry Tree than by the Burg; 
though while agone we deemed the Champions worse 
men to meet in the wood than the Burgers." 

" So it is," said Ralph ; " but men are oft mis-said 
by them that know them not thoroughly : and now, 
if it were a good wish, O Sage of Swevenham, I were 
fain to fall in with the best of all those champions, a 
tall man and a proper, who, meseems, had good-will 
toward me, I know not why." 

Quoth the Sage : " If thou canst not see the end of 
this wish fulfilled, no more can I. And yet, meseems 
something may follow it which is akin to grief: be 
content with things so done, my son." 

Now Ralph holds his peace, and they speed on 
their way, Ursula riding close by Ralph's side, and 
caressing him with looks, and by touch also when she 
might ; and after a while he fell to talking again, and 
ever in the same loud, cheerful voice. Till at last, in 
about another hour, they came in sight of the stream 
which ran down toward the Swelling Flood from that 
pool wherein erst the Lady of Abundance had bathed 
her before the murder. Hard looked Ralph on the 
stream, but howsoever his heart might ache with the 

166 



'memory of that passed grief, like as the body aches 
with the bruise of yesterday's blow, yet he changed 
countenance but little, and in his voice was the same 
cheery sound. But Ursula noted him, and how his 
eyes wandered, and how little he heeded the words of 
the others, and she knew what ailed him, for long ago 
he had told her all that tale, and so now her heart 
was troubled, and she looked on him and was silent. 

Thus, then, a little before sunset, they came on 
that steep cliff with the cave therein, and the little 
green plain thereunder, and the rocky bank going 
down sheer into the water of the stream. Forsooth 
they came on it somewhat suddenly from out of the 
bushes of the valley ; and there indeed not only the 
Sage and Richard, but Ursula also, were stayed by 
the sight as folk compelled ; for all three knew what 
had befallen there. But Ralph, though he looked 
over his shoulder at it all, yet rode on steadily, and 
when he saw that the others lingered, he waved his 
hand and cried out as he rode : " On, friends, on ! for 
the road shortens towards my Fathers' House." Then 
were they ashamed, and shook their reins to hasten 
after him. 

But in that very nick of time there came forth one 
from amidst the bushes that edged the pool of the 
stream and strode dripping on to the shallow ; a man 
brown and hairy, and naked, save for a green wreath 
about his middle. Tall he was above the stature of 
most men ; awful of aspect, and his eyes glittered from 
his dark brown face amidst of his shock-head of the 
colour of rain-spoilt hay. He stood and looked 
while one might count five, and then without a word 
or cry rushed up from the water, straight on Ursula, 
who was riding first of the three lingerers, and in the 
twinkling of an eye tore her from off her horse ; and 
she was in his grasp as the cushat in the claws of the 
kite. Then he cast her to earth, and stood over her, 



shaking a great club, but or ever he brought it down 
he turned his head over his shoulder toward the cliff 
and the cave therein, and in that same moment first 
one blade and then another flashed about him, and 
he fell crashing down upon his back, smitten in the 
breast and the side by Richard and Ralph ; and the 
wounds were deep and deadly. 

Ralph heeded him no more, but drew Ursula away 
from him, and raised her up and laid her head upon 
his knee ; and she had not quite swooned away, and 
forsooth had taken but little hurt ; only she was dizzy 
with terror and the heaving up and casting down. 

She looked up into Ralph's face, and smiled on 
him and said : <f What hath been done to me, and 
why did he do it ? " 

His eyes were still wild with fear and wrath, as he 
answered : " O Beloved, Death and the foeman of 
old came forth from the cavern of the cliff. What 
did they there, Lord God? and he caught thee to 
slay thee; but him have I slain. Nevertheless, it is a 
terrible and evil place : let us go hence." 

" Yea," she said, " let us go speedily ! " Then she 
stood up, weak and tottering still, and Ralph arose 
and put his left arm about her to stay her; and lo, 
there before them was Richard kneeling over the 
wild-man, and the Sage was coming back from the 
river with his headpiece full of water ; so Ralph cried 
out : " To horse, Richard, to horse ! Hast thou not 
done slaying the woodman ? " 

But therewith came a weak and hoarse voice from 
the earth, and the wild- man spake. " Child of Up- 
meads, drive not on so hard : it will not be long. 
For thou and Richard the Red are naught light- 
handed." 

Ralph marvelled that the wild-man knew him and 
Richard, but the wild-man spake again : " Hearken, 
thou lover, thou young man ! " 

168 






But therewith was the Sage come to him and kneel- 
ing beside him with the water, and he drank thereof, 
while Ralph said to him : c< What is this woodman ? 
and canst thou speak my Latin ? What art thou ? " 

Then the wild-man when he had drunk raised him 
up a little, and said : cc Young man, thou and Richard 
are deft leeches ; ye have let me blood to a purpose, 
and have brought back to me my wits, which were 
wandering wide. Yet am I indeed where my fool's 
brains told me I was." 

Then he lay back again, and turned his head as 
well as he could toward the cavern in the cliff. But 
Ralph deemed he had heard his voice before, and his 
heart was softened toward him, he knew not why ; but 
he said : " Yea, but wherefore didst thou fall upon the 
Lady?" The wild-man strove with his weakness, 
and said angrily : " What did another woman there ?" 
Then he said in a calmer but weaker voice : " Nay, 
my wits shall wander no more from me ; we will 
make the journey together, I and my wits. But O, 
young man, this I will say if I can. Thou fleddest 
from her and forgattest her. I came to her and forgat 
all but her ; yea, my very life I forgat." 

Again he spoke, and his voice was weaker yet : 
cc Kneel down by me, or I may not tell thee what I 
would ; my voice dieth before me." 

Then Ralph knelt down by him, for he began to 
have a deeming of what he was, and he put his face 
close to the dying man's, and said to him ; " I am here, 
what wouldst thou ? " 

Said the wild-man very feebly : " I did not much 
for thee, time was ; how might I, when I loved her so 
sorely? But I did a little. Believe it, and do so 
much for me that I may lie by her side when I am 
dead, who never lay by her living. For into the cave 
I durst go never." 

Then Ralph knew him, that he was the tall cham- 
169 



pion whom he had met first at the churchyard gate of 
Netherton ; so he said : " I know thee now, and I 
will promise to do thy will herein. I am sorry that I 
have slain thee ; forgive it me." 

A mocking smile came into the dying man's eyes, 
and he spake whispering : <c Richard it was ; not 
thou." 

The smile spread over his face, he strove to turn 
more toward Ralph, and said in a very faint whisper : 
The last time ! " 

No more he said, but gave up the ghost presently. 
The Sage rose up from his side and said : " Ye may 
now bury this man as he craved of thee, for he is 
dead. Thus hath thy wish been accomplished ; for 
this was the great champion and duke of the men of the 
Dry Tree. Indeed it is a pity of him that he is dead, 
for as terrible as he was to his foes, he was no ill man/* 

Spake Richard : <c Now is the riddle areded of the 
wild-man and the mighty giant that haunted these 
passes. We have played together or now, in days long 
past, he and I ; and ever he came to his above. He 
was a wise man and a prudent that he should have 
become a wild-man. It is great pity of him." 

But Ralph took his knight's cloak of red scarlet, 
and they lapped the wild-man therein, who had once 
been a champion beworshipped. But first Ursula 
sheared his hair and his beard, till the face of him 
came back again, grave, and somewhat mocking, as 
Ralph remembered it, time was. Then they bore him 
in the four corners across the stream, and up on to the 
lawn before the cliff; and Richard and the Sage bore 
him into the cave, and laid him down there beside 
the howe which Ralph had erewhile heaped over the 
Lady ; and now over him also they heaped stones. 

Meanwhile Ursula knelt at the mouth of the cave 
and wept ; but Ralph turned him about and stood on 
the edge of the bank, and looked over the ripple of 

170 



the stream on to the valley, where the moon was now 
beginning to cast shadows, till those two came out of 
the cave for the last time. Then Ralph turned to 
Ursula and raised her up and kissed her, and they 
went down all of them from that place of death and 
ill-hap, and gat to horse on the other side of the 
stream, and rode three miles further on by the glimmer 
of the moon, and lay down to rest amongst the bushes 
of the waste, with few words spoken between them. 



CHAPTER XVI. THEY COME TO THE 
CASTLE OF ABUNDANCE ONCE MORE. 

WHEN they rode on next morning Ralph was 
few-spoken, and seemed to heed little so 
long as they made good speed on the way : 
most of the talk was betwixt Richard and the Sage, 
Ralph but putting in a word when it would have 
seemed churlish to forbear. 

So they went their ways through the wood till by 
then the sun was well westering they came out at the 
Water of the Oak, and Richard drew rein there, and 
spake : " Here is a fair place for a summer night's 
lodging, and I would warrant both good knight and 
fair lady have lain here aforetime, and wished the 
dark longer : shall we not rest here ? " 

Ralph stared at him astonished, and then anger 
grew in his face for a little, because, forsooth, as 
Richard and the Sage both wotted of the place of the 
slaying of the Lady, and he himself had every yard of 
the way in his mind as they went, it seemed but due 
that they should have known of this place also, what 
betid there : but it was not so, and the place was to 
Richard like any other lawn of the woodland. 

But thought came back to Ralph in a moment, and 
he smiled at his own folly, howbeit he could not do to 
lie another night on that lawn with other folk than 

171 



erst. So he said quietly : cc Nay, friend, were we not 
better to make the most of this daylight ? Seest thou 
it wants yet an hour of sunset ? " 

Richard nodded a yeasay, and the Sage said no 
word more; but Ursula cast her anxious look on 
Ralph as though she understood what was moving in 
him ; and therewith those others rode away lightly, 
but Ralph turned slowly from the oak-tree, and might 
not forbear looking on to the short sward round 
about, as if he hoped to see some token left behind. 
Then he lifted up his face as one awaking, shook his 
rein, and rode after the others down the long water. 

So they turned from the water anon, and rode the 
woodland ways, and lay that night by a stream that 
ran west. 

They arose betimes on the morrow, and whereas 
the Sage knew the woodland ways well, they made 
but a short journey of it to the Castle of Abundance, 
and came into the little plain but two hours after 
noon, where saving that the scythe had not yet wended 
the tall mowing grass in the crofts which the beasts 
and sheep were not pasturing, all was as on that other 
tide. The folk were at work in their gardens, or 
herding their cattle in the meads, and as aforetime 
they were merry of countenance and well-clad, fair 
and gentle to look on. 

There were their pleasant cots, and the little white 
church, and the fair walls of the castle on its low 
mound, and the day bright and sunny, all as aforetime, 
and Ralph looked on it all, and made no countenance 
of being moved beyond his wont. 

So they came out of the wood, and rode to the ford 
of the river, and the carles and queans came streaming 
from their garths and meads to meet them, and stood 
round wondering at them ; but an old carle came from 
out the throng and went up to Ralph, and hailed 
him, and said : u Ah, Knight ! and hast thou come 

172 



back to us ? and hast thou brought us tidings of our 
Lady ? Who is this fair woman that rideth with thee ? 
Is it she?" 

Spake Ralph : cc Nay ; go look on her closely, and 
tell me thy deeming of her." 

So the carle went up to Ursula, and peered closely 
into her face, and took her hand and looked on it, 
and knelt down and took her foot out of the stirrup, 
and kissed it, and then came back to Ralph, and 
said : cc Fair Sir, I wot not but it may be her sister ; 
for yonder old wise man I have seen here erst with our 
heavenly Lady. But though this fair woman may be 
her sister, it is not she. So tell me what is become of 
her, for it is long since we have seen her ; and what thou 
tellest us, that same shall we trow, even as if thou wert 
her angel. For I spake with thee, it is nigh two years 
agone, when thou wert abiding the coming of our 
Lady in the castle yonder. But now I see of thee that 
thou art brighter-faced, and mightier of aspect than 
aforetime, and it is in my mind that the Lady of 
Abundance must have loved thee and holpen thee, and 
blessed thee with some great blessing." 

Said Ralph : <c Old man, canst thou feel sorrow, and 
canst thou bear it ? " The carle shook his head. tc I 
wot not," said he, " I fear thy words." Said Ralph : 
"It were naught to say less than the truth ; and this 
is the very truth, that thou shalt never see thy Lady 
any more. I was the last living man that ever saw 
her alive." 

Then he spake in a loud voice and said : cc Lament, 
ye people ! for the Lady of Abundance is dead ; yet 
sure I am that she sendeth this message to you, Live 
in peace, and love ye the works of the earth. " 

But when they heard him, the old man covered up 
his face with the folds of his gown, and all that folk 
brake forth into weeping, and crying out : u Woe for 
us ! the Lady of Abundance is dead ! " and some of 



the younger men cast themselves down on to the earth, 
and wallowed, weeping and wailing : and there was no 
man there that seemed as if he knew which way to 
turn, or what to do ; and their faces were foolish with 
sorrow. Yet forsooth it was rather the carles than 
the queans who made all this lamentation. 

At last the old man spake : " Fair sir, ye have 
brought us heavy tidings, and we know not how to 
ask you to tell us more of the tale. Yet if thou 
might'st but tell us how the Lady died ? Woe's me 
for the word!" 

Said Ralph : " She was slain with the sword." 

The old man drew himself up stiff and stark, the 
eyes of him glittered under his white hair, and wrath 
changed his face, and the other men-folk thronged 
them to hearken what more should be said. 

But the elder spake again : " Tell me who it was 
that slew her, for surely shall I slay him, or die in the 
pain else/' 

Said Ralph : cc Be content, thou mayst not slay him ; 
he was a great and mighty man, a baron who bore a 
golden sun on a blue field. Thou mayst not slay him." 
" Yea," said the old man, " but I will, or he me." 

<c Live in peace," said Ralph, " for I slew him then 
and there." 

The old man held his peace a while, and then he 
said : " I know the man, for he hath been here afore- 
time, and not so long ago. But if he be dead, he 
hath a brother yet, an exceeding mighty man : he will 
be coming here to vex us and minish us." 

Said Ralph : cc He will not stir from where he lies 
till Earth's bones be broken, for my sword lay in his 
body yesterday." 

The old man stood silent again, and the other 
carles thronged him ; but the women stood aloof 
staring on Ralph. Then the elder came up to Ralph 
and knelt before him and kissed his feet; then" he 

174 



turned and called to him three of the others who were 
of the stoutest and most stalwarth, and he spake with 
them awhile, and then he came to Ralph again, and 
again knelt before him and said : " Lord, ye have come 
to us, and found us void of comfort, since we have lost 
our Lady. But we see in thee, that she hath loved 
thee and blessed thee, and thou hast slain her slayer 
and his kindred. And we see of thee also that thou 
art a good lord. O the comfort to us, therefore, if 
thou wouldest be our Lord ! We will serve thee 
truly so far as we may : yea, even if thou be beset by 
foes, we will take bow and bill from the wall, and 
stand round about thee and fight for thee. Only thou 
must not ask us to go hence from this place : for we 
know naught but the Plain of Abundance, and the 
edges of the wood, and the Brethren of the House of 
the Thorn, who are not far hence. Now we pray 
thee by thy fathers not to nay say us, so sore as thou 
hast made our hearts. Also we see about thy neck 
the same-like pair of beads which our Lady was 
wont to bear, and we deem that ye were in one tale 
together." 

Then was Ralph silent awhile, but the Sage spake 
to the elder : " Old man, how great is the loss of the 
Lady to you ? " " Heavy loss, wise old man," said 
the carle, " as thou thyself mayst know, having known 
her." 

" And what did she for you ? " said the Sage. Said 
the elder : " We know that she was gracious to us ; 
never did she lay tax or tale on us, and whiles she 
would give us of her store, and that often, and abun- 
dantly. We deem also that every time when she 
came to us our increase became more plenteous, which 
is well seen by this, that since she hath ceased to 
come, the seasons have been niggard unto us." 

The Sage smiled somewhat, and the old man went 
on : " But chiefly the blessing was to see her when 



she came to us : for verily it seemed that where she 
set her feet the grass grew greener, and that the 
flowers blossomed fairer where the shadow of her 
body fell." And therewith the old man fell a-weeping 
again. 

The Sage held his peace, and Ralph still kept 
silence ; and now of those men all the younger ones 
had their eyes upon Ursula. 

After a while Ralph spake and said : <c O elder, 
and ye folk of the People of Abundance, true it is 
that your Lady who is dead loved me, and it is 
through her that I am become a Friend of the Well. 
Now meseemeth though ye have lost your Lady, 
whom ye so loved and worshipped, God wot not 
without cause, yet I wot not why ye now cry out for 
a master, since ye dwell here in peace and quiet and 
all wealth, and the Fathers of the Thorn are here to 
do good to you. Yet, if ye will it in sooth, I will be 
called your Lord, in memory of your Lady whom ye 
shall not see again. And as time wears I will come 
and look on you and hearken to your needs : and if 
ye come to fear that any should fall upon you with 
the strong hand, then send ye a message to me, 
Ralph of Upmeads, down by the water, and I will 
come to you with such following as need be. And 
as for service, this only I lay upon you, that ye look 
to the Castle and keep it in good order, and ward it 
against thieves and runagates, and give guesting 
therein to any wandering knight or pilgrim, or honest 
goodman, who shall come to you. Now is all said, 
my masters, and I pray you let us depart in peace ; 
for time presses." 

Then all they (and this time women as well as 
men) cried out joyfully : cc Hail to our lord ! and long 
life to our helper." And the women withal drew 
nearer to him, and some came close up to him, as if 
they would touch him or kiss his hand, but by seeming 

176 



durst not, but stood blushing before him, and he 
looked on them, smiling kindly. 

But the old man laid his hand on his knee and 
said : " Lord, wouldst thou not light down and enter 
thy Castle ; for none hath more right there now than 
thou. The Prior of the Thorn hath told us that 
there is no lineage of the Lady left to claim it ; and 
none other might ever have claimed it save the Baron 
of Sunway, whom thou hast slain. And else would 
we have slain him, since he slew our Lady." 

Ralph shook his head and said : " Nay, old friend, 
and new vassal, this we may not do : we must on 
speedily, for belike there is work for us to do nearer 
home." 

cc Yea, Lord/' said the carle, " but at least light 
down and sit for a while under this fair oak-tree in 
the heat of the day, and eat a morsel with us, and 
drink a cup, that thy luck may abide with us when 
thou art gone." 

Ralph would not naysay him ; so he and all of 
them got off their horses, and sat down on the 
green grass under the oak : and that people gathered 
about and sat down by them, save that a many of the 
women went to their nouses to fetch out the victual. 
Meanwhile the carles fell to speech freely with the 
wayfarers, and told them much concerning their little 
land, were it hearsay, or stark sooth : such as tales of 
the wights that dwelt in the wood, wodehouses, and 
elf-women, and dwarfs, and such like, and how fearful 
it were to deal with such creatures. Amongst other 
matters they told how a hermit, a holy man, had 
come to dwell in the wood, in a clearing but a little 
way thence toward the north-west. But when Ralph 
asked if he dwelt on the way to the ford of the 
Swelling Flood, they knew not what he meant ; for 
the wood was to them as a wall. 

Hereon the Sage held one of the younger men in 

II. 177 N 



talk, and taught him what he might of the way to the 
Burg of the Four Friths, so that they might verily 
send a messenger to Upmeads if need were. But the 
country youth said there was no need to think thereof, 
as no man of theirs would dare the journey through 
the wood, and that if they had need of a messenger, 
one of the Fathers of the Thorn would do their 
errand, whereas they were holy men, and knew the 
face of the world full well. 

Now in this while the folk seemed to have gotten 
their courage again, and to be cheery, and to have 
lost their grief for the Lady : and of the maidens left 
about the oak were more than two or three very fair, 
who stood gazing at Ralph as if they were exceeding 
fain of him. 

But amidst these things came back the women with 
the victual; to wit bread in baskets, and cheeses both 
fresh and old, and honey, and wood-strawberries, and 
eggs cooked diversely, and skewers of white wood 
with gobbets of roasted lamb's flesh, and salad good 
plenty. All these they bore first to Ralph and Ursula, 
and their two fellows, and then dealt them to their 
own folk : and they feasted and were merry in despite 
of that tale of evil tidings. They brought also bowls 
and pitchers of wine that was good and strong, and 
cider of their orchards, and called many a health to 
the new Lord and his kindred. 

Thus then they abode a-feasting till the sun was 
westering and the shadows waxed about them, and 
then at last Ralph rose up and called to horse, and the 
other wayfarers arose also, and the horses were led up 
to them. Then the maidens, made bold by the joy 
of the feast, and being stirred to the heart by much 
beholding of this beloved Lord, cast off their shame- 
facedness and crowded about him, and kissed his 
raiment and his hands : some even, though trembling, 
and more for love than fear, prayed him for kisses, 



and he, nothing loath, laughed merrily and laid his 
hands on their shoulders or took them by the chins, 
and set his lips to the sweetness of their cheeks and 
their lips, of those that asked and those that refrained ; 
so that their hearts failed them for love of him, and 
when he was gone, they knew not how to go back to 
their houses, or the places that were familiar to them. 
Therewith he and his got into their saddles and rode 
away slowly, because of the thronging about them of 
that folk, who followed them to the edge of the 
wood, and even entered a little thereinto; and then 
stood gazing on Ralph and his fellows after they had 
spurred on and were riding down a glade of the 
woodland. 



CHAPTER XVII. THEY FALL IN WITH 
THAT HERMIT. 

SO much had they tarried over this greeting and 
feasting, that though they had hoped to have 
come to the hermit's house that night, he of 
whom that folk had told them, it fell not so, whereas 
the day had aged so much ere they left the Plain of 
Abundance that it began to dusk before they had gone 
far, and they must needs stay and await the dawn 
there; so they dight their lodging as well as they 
might, and lay down and slept under the thick boughs. 
Ralph woke about sunrise, and looking up saw a 
man standing over him, and deemed at first that it 
would be Richard or the Sage ; but as his vision 
cleared, he saw that it was neither of them, but a new 
comer ; a stout carle clad in russet, with a great staff 
in his hand and a short-sword girt to his side. Ralph 
sprang up, still not utterly awake, and cried out, 
" Who art thou, carle ? " The man laughed, and 
said : u Yea, thou art still the same brisk lad, only 
filled out to something more warrior-like than of old. 

179 



But it is unmeet to forget old friends. Why dost 
thou not hail me ? " 

<c Because I know thee not, good fellow," said 
Ralph. But even as he spoke, he looked into the 
man's face again, and cried out : " By St. Nicholas ! 
but it is Roger of the Ropewalk. But look you, 
fellow, if I have somewhat filled out, thou, who wast 
always black-muzzled, art now become as hairy as a 
wodehouse. What dost thou in the wilds ? " Said 
Roger : cc Did they not tell thee of a hermit new come 
to these shaws ? " " Yea," said Ralph. <c I am that 
holy man," quoth Roger, grinning; " not that I am 
so much of that, either. I have not come hither to 
pray or fast overmuch, but to rest my soul and be 
out of the way of men. For all things have changed 
since my Lady passed away." 

He looked about, and saw Ursula just rising up 
from the ground and the Sage stirring, while Richard 
yet hugged his bracken bed, snoring. So he said : 
" And who be these, and why hast thou taken to the 
wildwood ? Yea lad, I see of thee, that thou hast 
gotten another Lady ; and if mine eyes do not fail me 
she is fair enough. But there be others as fair ; while 
the like to our Lady that was, there is none such." 

He fell silent a while, and Ralph turned about to 
the others, for by this time Richard also was awake, 
and said : " This man is the hermit of whom we were 
told." 

Roger said : " Yea, I am the hermit and the holy 
man ; and withal I have a thing to hear and a thing 
to tell. Ye were best to come with me, all of you, 
to my house in the woods ; a poor one, forsooth, but 
there is somewhat of victual here, and we can tell and 
hearken therein well sheltered and at peace. So to 
horse, fair folk." 

They would not be bidden twice, but mounted 
and went along with him, who led them by a thicket 

180 



path about a mile, till they came to a lawn where- 
through ran a stream ; and there was a little house in 
it, simple enough, of one hall, built with rough tree- 
limbs and reed thatch. He brought them in, and 
bade them sit on such stools or bundles of stuff as 
were there. But withal he brought out victual nowise 
ill, though it were but simple also, of venison of the 
wildwood, with some little deal of cakes baked on 
the hearth, and he poured for them also both milk 
and wine. 

They were well content with the banquet, and when 
they were full, Roger said : cc Now, my Lord, like 
as oft befalleth minstrels, ye have had your wages 
before your work. Fall to, then, and pay me the 
scot by telling me all that hath befallen you since 
(woe worth the while !) my Lady died, I must 
needs say, for thy sake." 

"'All' is a big word," said Ralph, "but I will tell 
thee somewhat. Yet I bid thee take note that I and 
this ancient wise one, and my Lady withal, deem that 
I am drawn by my kindred to come to their help, and 
that time presses." 

Roger scowled somewhat on Ursula ; but he said : 
" Lord and master, let not that fly trouble thy lip. 
For so I deem of it, that whatsoever time ye may lose 
by falling in with me, ye may gain twice as much 
again by hearkening my tale and the rede that shall 
go with it. And I do thee to wit that the telling of 
thy tale shall unfreeze mine ; so tarry not, if ye be in 
haste to be gone, but let thy tongue wag." 

Ralph smiled, and without more ado told him all 
that had befallen him ; and of Swevenham and Utter- 
bol, and of his captivity and flight ; and of the meet- 
ing in the wood, and of the Sage (who there was), and 
of the journey to the Well, and what betid there and 
since, and of the death of the Champion of the Dry 
Tree. 

181 



But when he had made an end, Roger said : " There 
it is, then, as I said when she first spake to me of 
thee and bade me bring about that meeting with her, 
drawing thee first to the Burg and after to the Castle 
of Abundance, I have forgotten mostly by what lies ; 
but I said to her that she had set her heart on a man 
over lucky, and that thou wouldst take her luck from 
her and make it thine. But now I will let all that pass, 
and will bid thee ask what thou wilt; and I promise 
thee that I will help thee to come thy ways to thy 
kindred, that thou mayst put forth thy luck in their 
behalf." 

Said Ralph : " First of all, tell me what shall I do 
to pass unhindered through the Burg of the Four 
Friths ? " Said Roger : " Thou shalt go in at one 
gate and out at the other, and none shall hinder thee." 

Said Ralph: "And shall I have any hindrance 
from them of the Dry Tree ? " 

Roger made as if he were swallowing down some- 
thing, and answered : " Nay, none." 

" And the folk of Higham by the Way, and the 
Brethren and their Abbot ? " said Ralph. 

" I know but little of them," quoth Roger, " but I 
deem that they will make a push to have thee for 
captain ; because they have had war on their hands of 
late. But this shall be at thine own will to say yea or 
nay to them. But for the rest on this side of the 
shepherds' country ye will pass by peaceful folk." 

' c Yea," said Ralph, " what then hath become of the 
pride and cruelty of the Burg of the Four Friths, and 
the eagerness and fierceness of the Dry Tree ? " 

Quoth Roger : " This is the tale of it : After the 
champions of the Dry Tree had lost their queen and 
beloved, the Lady of Abundance, they were both rest- 
less and fierce, for the days of sorrow hung heavy on 
their hands. So on a time a great company of them had 
ado with the Burgers somewhat recklessly and came to 

182 



the worse ; wherefore some drew back into their fast- 
ness of the Scaur and the others still rode on, and 
further west than their wont had been; but warily 
when they had the Wood Perilous behind them, for 
they had learned wisdom again. Thus riding they 
had tidings of an host of the Burg of the Four Friths 
who were resting in a valley hard by with a great 
train of captives and beasts and other spoil : for they 
had been raising the fray against the Wheat- wearers, 
and had slain many carles there, and were bringing 
home to the Burg many young women and women- 
children, after their custom. So they of the Dry 
Tree advised them of these tidings, and deemed that 
it would ease the sorrow of their hearts for their 
Lady if they could deal with these sons of whores and 
make a mark upon the Burg : so they lay hid while the 
daylight lasted, and by night and cloud fell upon these 
faineants of the Burg, and won them good cheap, as 
was like to be, though the Burg-dwellers were many 
the more. Whereof a many were slain, but many 
escaped and gat home to the Burg, even as will lightly 
happen even in the worst of overthrows, that not all, 
or even the more part be slain. 

"Well, there were the champions and their prey, 
which was very great, and especially of women, of whom 
the more part were young and fair : for the women 
of the Wheat-wearers be goodly, and these had been 
picked out by the rutters of the Burg for their youth 
and strength and beauty. And whereas the men of 
the Dry Tree were scant of women at home, and sore- 
hearted because of our Lady, they forbore not these 
women, but fell to talking with them and loving them ; 
howbeit in courteous and manly fashion, so that the 
women deemed themselves in heaven and were ready to 
do anything to please their lovers. So the end of it was 
that the Champions sent messengers to Hampton and 
the Castle of the Scaur to tell what had betid, and they 

183 



themselves took the road to the land of the Wheat- 
wearers, having those women with them not as captives 
but as free damsels. 

" Now the road to the Wheat- wearing country was 
long, and on the way the damsels told their new men 
many things of their land and their unhappy wars 
with them of the Burg and the griefs and torments 
which they endured of them. And this amongst 
other things, that wherever they came, they slew all 
the males even to the sucking babe, but spared the 
women, even when they bore them not into captivity. 

" c Whereof/ said these poor damsels, c it cometh 
that our land is ill-furnished of carles, so that we 
women, high and low, go afield and do many things, 
as crafts and the like, which in other lands are done 
by carles/ In sooth it seemed of them that they were 
both of stouter fashion, and defter than women are 
wont to be. So the champions, part in jest, part in 
earnest, bade them do on the armour of the slain 
Burgers, and take their weapons, and fell to teaching 
them how to handle staff and sword and bow ; and 
the women took heart from the valiant countenance 
of their new lovers, and deemed it all bitter earnest 
enough, and learned their part speedily ; and yet none 
too soon. For when the fleers of the Burg came home 
the Porte lost no time, but sent out another host to 
follow after the Champions and their spoil ; for they 
had learned that those men had not turned about to 
Hampton after their victory, but had gone on to the 
Wheat-wearers. 

u So it befell that the host of the Burg came up 
with the Champions on the eve of a summer day when 
there were yet three hours of daylight. But whereas 
they had looked to have an easy bargain of their foe- 
m'en, since they knew the Champions to be but a few, 
lo ! there was all the hillside covered with a goodly 
array of spears and glaives and shining helms. They 

184 



marvelled ; but now for very shame, and because they 
scarce could help it, they fell on, and before sunset 
were scattered to the winds again, and the fleers had 
to bear back the tale that the more part of their foes 
were women of the Wheat-wearers ; but this time few- 
were those that came back alive to the Burg of the 
Four Friths ; for the freed captives were hot and 
eager in the chase, casting aside their shields and 
hauberks that they might speed the better, and valuing 
their lives at naught if they might but slay a man or 
two of the tyrants before they died. 

<c Thus was the Burg wounded with its own sword : 
but the matter stopped not there : for when that 
victorious host of men and women came into the land 
of the Wheat-wearers, all men fled away in terror at 
first, thinking that it was a new onset of the men of 
the Burg ; and that all the more, as so many of them 
bore their weapons and armour. But when they found 
out how matters had gone, then, as ye may deem, was 
the greatest joy and exultation, and carles and queans 
both ran to arms and bade their deliverers learn them 
all that belonged to war, and said that one thing should 
not be lacking, to wit, the gift of their bodies, that 
should either lie dead in the fields, or bear about 
henceforth the souls of free men. Nothing lothe, the 
Champions became their doctors and teachers of battle, 
and a great host was drawn together ; and meanwhile 
the Champions had sent messengers again to Hampton 
telling them what was befallen, and asking for more 
men if they might be had. But the Burg-abiders 
were not like to sit down under their foil. Another host 
they sent against the Wheat-wearers, not so huge, as 
well arrayed and wise in war. The Champions espied 
its goings, and knew well that they had to deal with 
the best men of the Burg, and they met them in 
like wise ; for they chose the very best of the men and 
the women, and pitched on a place whence they might 



ward them well, and abode the foemen there; who 
failed not to come upon them, stout and stern and 
cold, and well-learned in all feats of war. 

" Long and bitter was the battle, and the Burgers 
were fierce without head-strong folly, and the Wheat- 
wearers deemed that if they blenched now, they had 
something worse than death to look to. But in the 
end when both sides were grown weary and worn out, 
and yet neither would flee, on a sudden came into the 
field the help from the Dry Tree, a valiant company 
of riders to whom battle was but game and play. Then 
indeed the men of the Burg gave back and drew out 
of the battle as best they might : yet were they little 
chased, save by the new-comers of the Dry Tree, for the 
others were overweary, and moreover the leaders had no 
mind to let the new-made warriors leave their vantage- 
ground lest the old and tried men-at-arms of the Burg 
should turn upon them and put them to the worse. 

" Men looked for battle again the next day ; but 
it fell not out so ; for the host of the Burg saw that 
there was more to lose than to gain, so they drew 
back towards their own place. Neither did they 
waste the land much ; for the riders of the Dry Tree 
followed hard at heel, and cut off all who tarried, or 
strayed from the main battle. 

" When they were gone, then at last did the Wheat- 
wearers give themselves up to the joy of their deliver- 
ance and the pleasure of their new lives : and one of 
their old men that I have spoken with told me this ; 
that before when they were little better than the 
thralls of the Burg, and durst scarce raise a hand 
against the foemen, the carles were but slow to love, 
and the queans, for all their fairness, cold and but little 
kind. However, now in the fields of the wheat- 
wearers themselves all this was changed, and men and 
maids took to arraying themselves gaily as occasion 
served, and there was singing and dancing on every 

186 



green, and straying of couples amongst the greenery 
of the summer night ; and in short the god of love 
was busy in the land, and made the eyes seem bright, 
and the lips sweet, and the bosom fair, and the arms 
sleek and the feet trim : so that every hour was full 
of allurement ; and ever the nigher that war and peril 
was, the more delight had man and maid of each 
other's bodies. 

" Well, within a while the Wheat- wearers were grown 
so full of hope that they bade the men of the Dry Tree 
lead them against the Burg of the Four Friths, and 
the Champions were ready thereto ; because they wotted 
well, that, Hampton being disgarnished of men, the 
men of the Burg might fall on it ; and even if they 
took it not, they would beset all ways and make riding 
a hard matter for their fellowship. So they fell to, 
wisely and deliberately, and led an host of the best of 
the carles with them, and bade the women keep their 
land surely, so that their host was not a great many. 
But so wisely they led them that they came before the 
Burg well-nigh unawares ; and though it seemed little 
likely that they should take so strong a place, yet 
nought less befell. For the Burg-dwellers beset with 
cruelty and bitter anger cried out that now at last they 
would make an end of this cursed people, and the 
whoreson strong-thieves their friends : so they went out 
a- gates a great multitude, but in worser order than their 
wont was ; and there befell that marvel which some- 
times befalleth even to very valiant men, that now at 
the pinch all their valour flowed from them, and they 
fled before the spears had met, and in such evil order 
that the gates could not be shut, and their foe men 
entered with them slaying and slaying even as they 
would. So that in an hour's space the pride and the 
estate of the Burg of the Four Friths was utterly fallen. 
Huge was the slaughter ; for the Wheat- wearers deemed 
they had many a grief whereof to avenge them ; nor 



were the men of the Dry Tree either sluggards or saints 
to be careless of their foemen, or to be merciful in the 
battle : but at last the murder was stayed : and then 
the men of the Wheat-wearers went from house 
to house in the town to find the women of their folk 
who had been made thralls by the Burgers. There 
then was many a joyful meeting betwixt those poor 
women and the men of their kindred : all was forgotten 
now of the days of their thralldom, their toil and 
mocking and stripes ; and within certain days all the 
sort of them came before the host clad in green 
raiment, and garlanded with flowers for the joy of 
their deliverance ; and great feast was made to them. 

"As for them of the Burg, the battle and chase 
over, no more were slain, save that certain of the 
great ones were made shorter by the head. But the 
Champions and the Wheat- wearers both, said that none 
of that bitter and cruel folk should abide any longer 
in the town ; so that after a delay long enough for 
them to provide stuff for their wayfaring, they were all 
thrust out a-gates, rich and poor, old and young, man, 
woman and child. Proudly and with a stout counte- 
nance they went, for now was their valour come again 
to them. And it is like that we shall hear of them oft 
again ; for though they had but few weapons amongst 
them when they were driven out of their old home, 
and neither hauberk nor shield nor helm, yet so learned 
in war be they and so marvellous great of pride, that 
they will somehow get them weapons ; and even armed 
but with headless staves, and cudgels of the thicket, 
woe betide the peaceful folk whom they shall first 
fall on. Yea, fair sir, the day shall come meseemeth 
when folk shall call on thee to lead the hunt after these 
famished wolves, and when thou dost so, call on me to 
tell thee tales of their doings which shall make thine 
heart hard, and thine hand heavy against them." 

<c Meantime," said Ralph, <c what has betid to the 
188 



Fellowship of the Dry Tree? for I see that thou hast 
some grief on thy mind because of them." 

Roger kept silence a little and then he said: "I 
grieve because Hampton is no more a strong place of 
warriors; two or three carles and a dozen of women 
dwell now in the halls and chambers of the Scaur. 
Here on earth, all endeth. God send us to find the 
world without end ! " 

" What then," said Ralph, " have they then had 
another great overthrow, worse than that other?" 
<c Nay," said Roger doggedly, "it is not so." " But 
where is the Fellowship ? " said Ralph. cc It is 
scattered abroad," quoth Roger. " For some of the 
Dry Tree had no heart to leave the women whom 
they had wooed in the Wheat- wearer's land : and 
some, and a great many, have taken their dears to 
dwell in the Burg of the Four Friths, whereas a many 
of the Wheat-wearers have gone to beget children on 
the old bondwomen of the Burgers ; of whom there 
were some two thousand alive after the Burg was 
taken ; besides that many women also came with the 
carles from their own land. 

" So that now a mixed folk are dwelling in the 
Burg, partly of those women -thralls, partly of carles 
and queans come newly from the Wheat-wearers,partly 
of men of our Fellowship the more part of whom are 
wedded to queans of the Wheat-wearers, and partly or 
men, chapmen and craftsmen and others who have 
drifted into the town, having heard that there is no 
lack of wealth there, and many fair women un- 
mated." 

" Yea," said Ralph, cc and is all this so ill ? " Said 
Roger, " Meseems it is ill enough that there is no 
longer, rightly said, a Fellowship of the Dry Tree, 
though the men be alive who were once of that fellow- 
ship." Nay," said Ralph, tc and why should they 
not make a new fellowship in the Burg, whereas they 

189 



may well be peaceful, since they have come to their 
above of their foemen ? " 

" Yea," said Roger slowly, " that is sooth ; and 
so is this, that there in the Burg they are a strong 
band, with a captain of their own, and much wor- 
shipped of the peaceful folk ; and moreover, though 
they be not cruel to torment helpless folk, or hard to 
make an end of all joy to-day, lest they lose their joy 
to-morrow, they now array all men in good order 
within the Burg, so that it shall be no easier for a 
foenian to win than erst it was/' 

"What, man!" said Ralph, "then be of better 
cheer, and come thou with us, and may be the old 
steel of the champions may look on the sun down in 
Upmeads. Come thou with me, I say, and show me 
and my luck to some of thy fellows who are dwelling 
in the Burg, and it may be when thou hast told my 
tale to them, that some of them shall be content to 
leave their beds cold for a while, that they may come 
help a Friend of the Well in his need/' 

Roger sat silent as if he were pondering the matter, 
while Richard and the Sage, both of them, took up the 
word one after the other, and urged him to it. 

At last he said : " Well, so be it for this adventure. 
Only I say not that I shall give up this hermitage and 
my holiness for ever. Come thou aside, wise man 
of Swevenham, and I shall tell thee wherefore." 
tc Yea," said Ralph, laughing, cc and when he hath 
told thee, tell me not again ; for sure I am that he is 
right to go with us, and belike shall be wrong in his 
reason therefor." 

Roger looked a little askance at him, and he went 
without doors with the Sage, and when they were out 
of earshot, he said to him : cc Hearken, I would have 
gone with my lord at the first word, and have been 
fain thereof; but there is this woman that followeth 
him. At every turn she shall mind me of our Lady 

190 



that was ; and I shall loath her, and her fairness and 
the allurements of her body, because I see of her, 
that she it is that hath gotten my Lady's luck, 
and that but for her my Lady might yet have been 
alive." 

Said the Sage : " Well quoth my lord that thou 
wouldst give me a fool's reason ! What ! dost not 
thou know, thou that knowest so much of the Lady 
of Abundance, that she it was who ordained this 
Ursula to be Ralph's bedmate, when she herself 
should be gone from him, were she dead or alive, and 
that she also should be a Friend of the Well, so that 
he might not lack a fellow his life long ? But this 
thou sayest, not knowing the mind of our Lady, and 
how she loved him in her inmost heart." 

Roger hung his head and spake not for a while, 
and then he said : cc Well, wise man, I have said that 
I will go on this adventure, and I will smooth my 
tongue for this while at least, and for what may come 
hereafter, let it be. And now we were best get to 
horse ; for what with meat and minstrelsy, we have 
worn away the day till it wants but a little of noon. 
Go tell thy lord that I am ready. Farewell peace, 
and welcome war and grudging ! " 

So the Sage went within, and came out with the 
others, and they mounted their horses anon, and 
Roger went ahead on foot, and led them through the 
thicket-ways without fumbling; and they lay down 
that night on the farther side of the Swelling Flood. 

CHAPTER XVIII. A CHANGE OF DAYS 
IN THE BURG OF THE FOUR FRITHS. 

THERE is naught to tell of their ways till they 
came out of the thicket into the fields about 
the Burg of the Four Friths; and even there 
was a look of a bettering of men's lives; though 

191 



forsooth the husbandmen there were much the same 
as had abided in the fields aforetime, whereas they 
were not for the most part freemen of the Burg, but 
aliens who did service in war and otherwise thereto. 
But, it being eventide, there were men and women 
and children, who had come out of gates, walking 
about and disporting themselves in the loveliness of 
early summer, and that in far merrier guise than 
they had durst do in the bygone days. More- 
over, there was scarce a sword or spear to be seen 
amongst them, whereat Roger grudged somewhat, 
and Richard said : " Meseems this folk trusts the 
peace of the Burg overmuch, since, when all is told, 
unpeace is not so far from their borders." 

But as they drew a little nigher Ralph pointed out 
to his fellows the gleam of helms and weapons on the 
walls, and they saw a watchman on each of the high 
towers of the south gate ; and then quoth Roger : 
" Nay, the Burg will not be won so easily ; and if a 
few fools get themselves slain outside it is no great 
matter." 

Folk nowise let them come up to the gate un- 
heeded, but gathered about them to look at the new- 
comers, but not so as to hinder them, and they could 
see that these summerers were goodly folk enough, 
and demeaned them as though they had but few 
troubles weighing on them. But the wayfarers were 
not unchallenged at the gate, for a stout man-at-arms 
stayed them and said : " Ye ride somewhat late, friends. 
What are ye?" Quoth Ralph: " We be peaceful 
wayfarers save to them that would fall on us, and we 
seek toward Upmeads." "Yea?" said the man, 
<c belike ye shall find something less than peace betwixt 
here and Upmeads, for rumour goes that there are 
alien riders come into the lands of Higham, and for 
aught I know the said unpeace may spread further on. 
Well, if ye will go to the Flower de Luce and abide 

192 



there this night, ye shall have a let-pass to-morn 
betimes." 

Then Ralph spake a word in Roger's ear, and 
Roger nodded his head, and, throwing his cowl aback, 
went up to the man-at-arms and said : cc Stephen 
a-Hurst, hast thou time for a word with an old 
friend? " " Yea, Roger," said the man, "is it verily 
thou ? I deemed that thou hadst fled away from all 
of us to live in the wilds." 

c< So it was, lad," said Roger, " but times change 
from good to bad and back again ; and now am I of 
this good lord's company; and I shall tell thee, 
Stephen, that though he rideth but few to-day, yet 
merry shall he be that rideth with him to-morrow if 
unpeace be in the land. Lo you, Stephen, this is the 
Child of Upmeads, whom belike thou hast heard of; 
and if thou wilt take me into the chamber of thy 
tower, I will tell thee things of him that thou wottest 
not." 

Stephen turned to Ralph and made obeisance to 
him and said : " Fair Sir, there are tales going about 
concerning thee, some whereof are strange enow, but 
none of them ill ; and I deem by the look of thee that 
thou shalt be both a stark champion and a good lord ; 
and I deem that it shall be my good luck, if I see more 
of thee, and much more. Now if thou wilt, pass on 
with thine other fellows to the Flower de Luce, and 
leave this my old fellow-in-arms with me, and he shall 
tell me of thy mind ; for I see that thou wouldest have 
somewhat of us ; and since, I doubt not by the looks 
of thee, that thou wilt not bid us aught unknightly, 
when we know thy will, we shall try to pleasure 
thee." 

"Yea, Lord Ralph," said Roger, "thou mayest 
leave all the business with me, and I will come to thee 
not later than betimes to-morrow, and let thee wot 
how matters have sped. And methinks ye may hope 

n. i 93 o 



to wend out-a-gates this time otherwise than thou 
didest before." 

So Ralph gave him yeasay and thanked the man- 
at-arms and rode his ways with the others toward the 
Flower de Luce, and whereas the sun was but newly 
set, Ralph noted that the booths were gayer and the 
houses brighter and more fairly adorned than afore- 
time. As for the folk, they were such that the streets 
seemed full of holiday makers, so joyous and well 
dight were they ; and the women like to those fair 
thralls whom he had seen that other time, saving that 
they were not clad so wantonly, however gaily. They 
came into the great square, and there they saw that 
the masons and builders had begun on the master 
church to make it fairer and bigger ; the people were 
sporting there as in the streets, and amongst them 
were some weaponed men, but the most part of these 
bore the token of the Dry Tree. 

So they entered the Flower de Luce, and had good 
welcome there, as if they were come home to their own 
house; for when its people saw such a goodly old 
man in the Sage, and so stout and trim a knight as was 
Richard, and above all when they beheld the loveli- 
ness of Ralph and Ursula, they praised them open- 
mouthed, and could scarce make enough of them. 
And when they had had their meat and were rested, 
came two of the maids there and asked them if it were 
lawful to talk with them; and Ralph laughed and 
bade them sit by them, and eat a dainty morsel ; and 
they took that blushing, for they were fair and young, 
and Ralph's face and the merry words of his mouth 
stirred the hearts within them : and forsooth it was 
not so much they that spake as Ursula and the Sage ; 
for Ralph was somewhat few spoken, whereas he pon- 
dered concerning the coming days, and what he half 
deemed that he saw a-doing at Upmeads. But at last 
they found their tongues, and said how that already 

194 



rumour was abroad that they were in the Burg who had 
drunk of the Water of the Well at the World's End ; 
and said one : " It is indeed a fair sight to see you folk 
coming back in triumph ; and so methinks will many 
deem if ye abide with us over to-morrow, and yet, Lady, 
for a while we are well-nigh as joyous as ye can be, 
whereas we have but newly come into new life also : 
some of us from very thralldom of the most grievous, 
and I am of those ; and some of us in daily peril of it, 
like to my sister here. So mayhappen," said she, 
smiling, " none of us shall seek to the Well until we 
have worn our present bliss a little threadbare." 

Ursula smiled on her, but the Sage said : cc May- 
happen it is of no avail speaking of such things to 
a young and fair woman ; but what would betide you 
if the old Burgers were to come back and win their 
walls again?" The maid who had been a thrall 
changed countenance at his word ; but the other one 
said : " If the Burgers come back, they will find them 
upon the walls who have already chaced them. Thou 
mayst deem me slim and tender, old wise man ; but 
such as mine arm is, it has upheaved the edges against 
the foe ; and if it be a murder to slay a Burger, then 
am I worthy of the gallows." "Yea, yea," quoth 
Richard, laughing, "ye shall be double-manned then 
in this good town : ye may well win, unless the sight 
of you shall make the foe over fierce for the gain." 

Said the Sage : <c It is well, maiden, and if ye hold 
to that, and keep your carles in the same road, ye 
need not to fear the Burgers : and to say sooth, I have 
it in my mind, that before long ye shall have both war 
and victory." 

Then Ralph seemed to wake up as from a dream, 
and he arose, and said : " Thou art in the right, Sage, 
and to mine eyes it seemeth that both thou and I shall 
be sharers in the war and the victory." And therewith 
he fell to striding up and down the hall, while the two 



maidens sat gazing on him with gleaming eyes and 
flushed cheeks. 

But in a little while he came back to his seat and 
sat him down, and fell to talk with the women, and 
asked them of the town and the building therein, and 
the markets, whether they throve ; and they and two or 
three of the townsmen or merchants answered all, and 
told him how fair their estate was, and how thriving 
was the lot of one and all with them. Therewith 
was Ralph well pleased, and they sat talking there in 
good fellowship till the night was somewhat worn, and 
all men fared to bed. 



CHAPTER XIX. RALPH SEES HAMPTON 
AND THE SCAUR. 

WHEN it was morning Ralph arose and went 
into the hall of the hostelry, and even as he 
entered it the outside door opened, and in 
came Roger, and Richard with him (for he had been 
astir very early) and Roger, who was armed from head 
to foot and wore a coat of the Dry Tree, cried out : 
" Now, Lord, thou wert best do on thy war-gear, for 
thou shalt presently be captain of an host." " Yea, 
Roger," quoth Ralph, <c and hast thou done well?" 
" Well enough," said Richard ; " thine host shall not 
be a great one, but no man in it will be a blencher, 
for they be all champions of the Dry Tree." 

" Yea," quoth Roger, " so it was that Stephen 
a-Hurst brought me to a company of my old fellows, 
and we went all of us together to the Captain of the 
Burg (e'en he of the Dry Tree, who in these latest 
days is made captain of all), and did him to wit that 
thou hadst a need ; and whereas he, as all of us, had 
heard of the strokes that thou struckest in the wood 
that day when thy happiness first began, (woe worth 
the while !) he stickled not to give some of us leave 

196 



to look on the hand-play with thee. But soft, my 
Lord ! abound not in thanks as yet, till I tell thee. 
The said Captain hath gotten somewhat of the mind 
of a chapman by dwelling in a town, 'tis like (the 
saints forgive me for saying so !) and would strike a 
bargain with thee." " Yea," said Ralph, smiling, ec I 
partly guess what like the bargain is ; but say thou." 

Said Roger : " I like not his bargain, not for thy 
sake but mine own ; this it is, that we shall ride, all of 
us who are to be of thy fellowship, to the Castle of the 
Scaur to-day, and there thy Lady shall sit in the 
throne whereas in past days our Lady and Queen was 
wont to sit ; and that thou shalt swear upon her head, 
that whensoever he biddeth thee come to the help of 
the Burg of the Four Friths and the tribes of the 
Wheat- wearers, thou shalt come in arms by the 
straightest road with such fellowship as thou mayst 
gather ; and if thou wilt so do, we of the Dry Tree 
who go with thee on this journey are thine to save or 
to spend by flood or field, or castle wall, amidst the 
edges and the shafts and the fire-flaught. What sayest 
thou thou who art lucky, and hast of late become 
wise ? And I will tell thee, that though I hope it not, 
yet I would thou shouldst naysay it; for it will be 
hard for me to see another woman sitting in our 
Lady's seat : yea, to see her sitting there, who hath 
stolen her luck." 

Said Ralph : " Now this proffer of the Captain's I 
call friendly and knightly, and I will gladly swear as 
he will ; all the more as without any oath I should 
never fail him whensoever he may send for me. As 
for thee, Roger, ride with us if thou wilt, and thou 
shalt be welcome both in the company, and at the 
High House of Upmeads whenso we come there." 

Then was Roger silent, but nowise abashed ; and 
as they spoke they heard the tramp of horses and the 
clash of weapons, and they saw through the open 

197 



door three men-at-arms riding up to the house ; so 
Ralph went out to welcome them ; they were armed 
full well in bright armour, and their coats were of the 
Dry Tree, and were tall men and warrior-like. They 
hailed Ralph as captain, and he gave them the sele of 
the day and bade come in and drink a cup ; so did 
they, but they were scarce off their horses ere there 
came another three, and then six together, and so one 
after other till the hall of the Flower de Luce was full of 
the gleam of steel and clash of armour, and the lads held 
their horses without and were merry with the sight of 
the stalwart men-at-arms. Now cometh Ursula down 
from her chamber clad in her bravery ; and when they 
saw her they set up a shout for joy of her, so that the 
rafters rang again; but she laughed for pleasure of 
them, and poured them out the wine, till they were 
merrier with the sight of her than with the good liquor. 
Now Roger comes to Ralph and tells him that he 
deems his host hath come to the last man. Then 
Ralph armed him, and those two maidens brought 
him his horse, and they mount all of them and draw 
up in the Square ; and Roger and Stephen a-Hurst 
array them, for they were chosen of them as leaders 
along with Ralph, and Richard, whom they all knew, 
at least by hearsay. Then Roger drew from his 
pouch a parchment, and read the roll of names, and 
there was no man lacking, and they were threescore 
save five, besides Roger and the way-farers, and never 
was a band of like number seen better ; and Richard 
said softly unto Ralph : u If we had a few more of 
these, I should care little what foemen we should 
meet in Upmeads : soothly, my lord, they had as well 
have ridden into red Hell as into our green fields." 
" Fear not, Richard," said Ralph, " we shall have 
enough." 

So then they rode out of the Square and through 
the streets to the North Gate, and much folk was 

198 



abroad to look on them, and they blessed them as they 
went, both carles and queans; for the rumour was 
toward that there was riding a good and dear Lord 
and a Friend of the Well to get his own again from 
out of the hands of the aliens. 

Herewith they ride a little trot through the Freedom 
of the Burg, and when they were clear of it they, 
turned aside from the woodland highway whereon 
Ralph had erst ridden with Roger and followed the 
rides a good way till it was past noon, when they 
came into a very close thicket where there was but a 
narrow and winding way whereon two men might not 
ride abreast, and Roger said : " Now, if we were the 
old Burgers, and the Dry Tree still holding the Scaur, 
we should presently know what steel-point dinner 
meaneth ; if the dead could rise out of their graves to 
greet their foemen, we should anon be a merry com- 
pany here. But at last they learned the trick, and 
were wont to fetch a compass round about Grey 
Goose Thicket as it hight amongst us." 

"Well," said Ralph, "but how if there be any 
waylaying us ; the Burgers may be wiser still than 
thou deemest, and ye may have learned them more 
than thou art minded to think." 

<c Nay," said Roger, u I bade a half score turn aside 
by the thicket path on our left hands ; that shall make 
all sure ; but indeed I look for no lurkers as yet. In 
a month's time that may betide, but not yet; not yet. 
But tell me, fair Sir, have ye any deeming of where 
thou mayst get thee more folk who be not afraid of 
the hard hand-play? For Richard hath been telling 
me that there be tidings in the air." 

Said Ralph : u If hope play me not false, I look to 
gather some stout carles of the Shepherd Country." 
"Yea," said Roger, cc but I shall tell thee that they 
have been at whiles unfriends of the Dry Tree." 
Said Ralph : " I think they will be friends unto me." 

199 



" Then it shall do well/' said Roger, " for they be 
good in a fray." 

So talked they as they rode, but ever Roger would 
give no heed to Ursula, but made as if he wotted not 
that she was there, though ever and anon Ralph would 
be turning back to speak to her and help her through 
the passes. 

At last the thicket began to dwindle, and presently 
riding out of a little valley or long trench on to a ridge 
nearly bare of trees, they saw below them a fair green 
plain, and in the midst of it a great heap of grey rocks 
rising out of it like a reef out of the sea, and on the said 
reef, and climbing up as it were to the topmost of it, the 
white walls of a great castle, the crown whereof was 
a huge round tower. At the foot of the ridge was a 
thorp of white houses thatched with straw scattered 
over a good piece of the plain. The company drew 
rein on the ridge-top, and the Champions raised a 
great shout at the sight of their old strong-place ; and 
Roger turned to Ralph and said : cc Fair Sir, how 
deemest thou of the Castle of the Scaur ?" But Richard 
broke in : u For my part, friend Roger, I deem that 
ye do like to people unlearned in war to leave the 
stronghold ungarnished of men. This is a fool's 
deed." <c Nay, nay," said Roger, u we need not be 
over-hasty, while it is our chief business to order the 
mingled folk of the Wheat-wearers and others who 
dwell in the Burg as now." 

Then spake Ralph : u Yet how wilt thou say but 
that the foemen whom we go to meet in Upmeads 
may be some of those very Burgers : hast thou heard 
whether they have found a new dwelling among some 
unhappy folk, or be still roving : maybe they shall 
deem Upmeads fair." 

Spake Stephen a-Hurst : " By thy leave, fair Sir, 
we have had a word of those same riders and strong- 
thieves that they have fetched a far compass, and got 

200 



them armour, and be come into the woodland north 
of the Wood Debateable. For like all strong-thieves, 
they love the wood." 

Roger laughed : " Yea, as we did, friend Stephen, 
when we were thieves ; whereas now we be lords and 
gentlemen. But as to thy tidings, I set not much by 
them ; for of the same message was this word that 
they had already fallen on Higham by the Way ; and 
we know that this cannot be true ; since though for- 
sooth the Abbot has had unpeace on his hands, we 
know where his foemen came from, the West to wit, 
and the Banded Barons." 

<c Yea, yea," quoth the Sage, cc but may not the 
Burgers have taken service with them ? " " Yea, for- 
sooth," quoth Roger, " but I deem not, or we had 
been surer thereof." 

Thus they spake, and they lighted down all of 
them to breathe their horses, and Ursula spake with 
Ralph as they walked the greensward together a little 
apart, and said : <c Sweetheart, I am afraid of to-day." 

<c Yea, dear," said he, " and wherefore ? " She said : 
" It will be hard for me to enter that grim house 
yonder, and sit in the seat whence I was erewhile 
threatened by the evil hag with hair like a grey she- 
bear." 

He made much of her and said : " Yet belike a 
Friend of the Well may overcome this also; and 
withal the hall shall be far other to-day than it was." 

She looked about on the warriors as they lay on 
the grass or loitered by their horses ; then she smiled, 
and her face lightened, and she reddened and cast 
down her eyes and said : <c Yea, that is sooth ; that 
day there were few men in the hall, and they old and 
evil of semblance. It was a band of women who took 
me in the thorp and brought me up into the Castle, 
and mishandled me there, and cast me into prison 
there ; whereas these be good fellows, and frank and 

201 



free of aspect. But O, my heart, look thou how fear- 
ful the piled-up rocks rise from the plain and the 
walls wind up amongst them ; and that huge tower, 
the crown of all ! Surely there is none more fearful 
in the world." 

He kissed her and laughed merrily, and said : 
<c Yea, sweetheart, and there will be another change 
in the folk of the hall when we come there this time, 
to wit, that thou shouldst not be alone therein, even 
were all these champions, and Richard and the Sage 
away from thee. Wilt thou tell me how that shall 
be?" 

She turned to him and kissed him and caressed 
him, and then they turned back again toward their 
fellows, for by now they had walked together a good 
way along the ridge. 

So then they gat to horse again and rode into the 
thorp, where men and women stood about to behold 
them, and made them humble reverence as they passed 
by. So rode they to the bailly of the Castle ; and if that 
stronghold looked terrible from the ridge above, ten- 
fold more terrible of aspect it was when the upper parts 
were hidden by the grey rocks, and they so huge and 
beetling, and though the sun was bright about them, 
and they in the midst of their friends, yet even Ralph 
felt somewhat of dread creep over him : yet he smiled 
cheerfully as Ursula turned an anxious face on him. 
They alighted from their horses in the bailly, for over 
steep for horse-hoofs was the walled way upward ; and 
as they began to mount, even the merry Champions 
hushed their holiday clamour for awe of the huge 
stronghold, and Ralph took Ursula by the hand, and 
she sidled up to him, and said softly : <c Yea, it was 
here they drave me up, those women, thrusting 
and smiting me; and some would have stripped off 
my raiment, but one who seemed the wisest, said, 
s Nay, leave her till she come before the ancient Lady, 

202 



for her gear may be a token of whence she is, and 
whither, if she be come as a spy/ So I escaped them for 
that moment. And now I wonder what we shall find 
in the hall when we come in thither. It is somewhat 
like to me, as when one gets up from bed in the dead 
night, when all is quiet and the moon is shining, and 
goes out of the chamber into the hall, and coming 
back, almost dreads to see some horror lying in one's 
place amid the familiar bedclothes." 

And she grew paler as she spake. Then Ralph 
comforted her and trimmed his countenance to a look 
of mirth, but inwardly he was ill at ease. 

So up they went and up, till they came to a level 
place whereon was built the chief hall and its cham- 
bers : there they stood awhile to breathe them before 
the door, which was rather low than great ; and Ursula 
clung to Ralph and trembled, but Ralph spake in her 
ear: "Take heart, my sweet, or these men, and 
Roger in especial, will think the worse of thee ; and 
thou a Friend of the Well. What ! here is naught to 
hurt thee ! this is naught beside the perils of the 
desert, and the slaves and the evil lord of Utterbol." 
" Yea," she said, " but meseemeth I loved thee not so 
sore as now I do. O friend, I am become a weak 
woman and unvaliant, and there is naught in me but 
love of thee, an.d love of life because of thee ; nor dost 
thou know altogether what befell me in that hall." 

But Ralph turned about and cried out in a loud, 
cheerful voice : <c Let us enter, friends ! and lo you, 
I will show the Champions of the Dry Tree the way 
into their own hall and high place." Therewith he 
thrust the door open, for it was not locked, and strode 
into the hall, still leading Ursula by the hand, and all 
the company followed him, the clash of their armour 
resounding through the huge building. Though it 
was long, it was not so much that it was long as that 
it was broad, and exceeding high, so that in the dusk 

203 



of it the great vault of the roof was dim and misty. 
There was no man therein, no hailing on its walls, no 
benches nor boards, naught but the great standing 
table of stone on the dais, and the stone high-seat 
amidst of it : and the place did verily seem like the 
house and hall of a people that had died out in one 
hour because of their evil deeds. 

They stood still a moment when they were all 
fairly within doors, and Roger thrust up to Ralph 
and said, but softly : u The woman is blenching, and 
all for naught ; were it not for the oath, we had best 
have left her in the thorp : I fear me she will bring evil 
days on our old home with her shivering fear. How 
far otherwise came our Lady in hither when first she 
came amongst us, when the Duke of us found her in 
the wood after she had been thrust out from Sunway 
by the Baron whom thou slewest afterward. Our 
Duke brought her in hither wrapped up in his 
knight's scarlet cloak, and went up with her on to 
the dais ; but when she came thither, she turned about 
and let her cloak fall to earth, and stood there bare- 
foot in her smock, as she had been cast out into the 
wild wood, and she spread abroad her hands, and cried 
out in a loud voice as sweet as the May blackbird, 
* May God bless this House and the abode of the 
valiant, and the shelter of the hapless/ ' 

Said Ursula (and her voice was firm and the colour 
come back to her cheeks now, while Ralph stood 
agaze and wondering) : " Roger, thou lovest me little, 
meseemeth, though if I did less than I do, I should 
do against the will of thy Lady that was Queen in 
this hall. But tell me, Roger, where is gone that 
other one, the fearful she-bear of this crag, who sat in 
yonder stone high-seat, and roared at me and mocked 
me, and gave me over into the hands of her tormen- 
tors, who haled me away to the prison wherefrom thy 
very Lady delivered me ? " 

204 



cc Lady," said Roger, " the tale of her is short since 
the day thou sawest her herein. On the day when we 
first had the evil tidings of the slaying of my Lady we 
were sad at heart, and called to mind ancient trans- 
gressions against us; therefore we fell on the she- 
bear, as thou callest her, and her company of men and 
women, and some we slew and some we thrust forth ; 
but as to her, I slew her not three feet from where thou 
standest now. A rumour there is that she walketh, 
and it may be so ; yet in the summer noon ye need 
not look to see her." 

Ralph said coldly : " Roger, let us be done with 
minstrels' tales ; lead me to the place where the oath 
is to be sworn, for time presses." 

Scarce were the words out of his mouth ere Roger 
strode forward and gat him on to the dais and went 
hastily to the wall behind the high- seat, whence he 
took down a very great horn, and set it to his lips and 
winded it loudly thrice, so that the great and high 
hall was full of its echoes. Richard started thereat 
and half drew his sword ; but the Sage put his hand 
upon the hilts, and said : cc It is naught, let the edges 
lie quiet." Ursula stared astonished, but now she 
quaked no more; Ralph changed not countenance a 
wit, and the champions of the Tree made as if naught 
had been done that they looked not for. But there- 
after cried Roger from the dais : cc This is the token 
that the men of the Dry Tree are met for matters of 
import ; thus is the Mote hallowed. Come up hither, 
ye aliens, and ye also of the fellowship, that the oath 
may be sworn, and we may go our ways, even as the 
alien captain biddeth." 

Then Ralph took Ursula's hand again, and went 
up the hall calmly and proudly, and the champions 
followed with Richard and the Sage. Ralph and 
Ursula went up on to the dais, and he set down 
Ursula in the stone high-seat, and even in the hall- 

205 



dusk a right fair-coloured picture she looked therein ; 
for she was clad in a goodly green gown broidered 
with flowers, and a green cloak with gold orphreys 
over it ; her hair was spread abroad over her shoulders, 
and on her head was a garland of roses which the 
women of the Flower de Luce had given her; so there 
she sat with her fair face, whence now all the wrinkles 
of trouble and fear were smoothed out, looking like an 
image of the early summer- tide itself. And the cham- 
pions looked on her and marvelled, and one whispered 
to the other that it was their Lady of aforetime come 
back again ; only Roger, who had now gone back to 
the rest of the fellowship, cast his eyes upon the 
ground, and muttered. 

Now Ralph draws his sword, and lays it naked on 
the stone table, and he stood beside Ursula and said : 
" Champions of the Dry Tree, by the blade of Up- 
meads which lieth here before me, and by the head 
which I love best in the world, and is best worthy of 
love " (and herewith he laid his hand on Ursula's head), 
" 1 swear that whensoever the Captain of the Dry Tree 
calleth on me, whether I be eating or drinking, abed 
or standing on my feet, at peace or at war, glad or 
sorry, I shall do my utmost to come to his aid straight- 
way with whatso force I may gather. Is this rightly 
sworn, Champions?" 

Said Stephen a-Hurst : cc It is sworn well and 
knightly, and now cometh our oath/' 

" Nay," said Ralph, " I had no mind to drive a 
bargain with you ; your deeds shall prove you ; and I 
fear not for your doughtiness." 

Said Stephen : " Yea, Lord ; but he bade us swear 
to thee. Reach me thy sword, I pray thee." 

Then Ralph reached him his sword across the great 
stone table, and Stephen took it, and kissed the blade 
and the hilts ; and then lifted up his voice and said : 
"By the hilts and the blade, by the point and the 

206 



edge, we swear to follow the Lord Ralph of Upmeads 
for a year and a day, and to do his will in all wise. So 
help us God and Allhallows ! " 

And therewith he gave the sword to the others, and 
each man of them kissed it as he had. 

But Ralph said : u Champions, for this oath I 
thank you all heartily. But it is not my meaning 
that I should hold you by me for a year, whereas I 
deem I shall do all that my kindred may need in three 
days' space from the first hour wherein we set foot in 
Upmeads." 

Stephen smiled friendly at him and nodded, and 
said : "That may well be ; but now to make a good 
end of this mote I will tell thee a thing ; to wit, that 
our Captain, yea, and all we, are minded to try thee 
by this fray in Upmeads, now we know that thou 
hast become a Friend of the Well. And if thou turn 
out as we deem is likest, we will give thee this Castle 
of the Scaur, for thee and those that shall spring from 
thy loins ; for we deem that some such man as thou 
will be the only one to hold it worthily, and in such 
wise as it may be a stronghold against tyrants and for 
the helping of peaceable folk ; since forsooth, we of 
the Dry Tree have heard somewhat of the Well at 
the World's End, and trow in the might thereof." 

He made an end ; and Ralph kept silence and pon- 
dered the matter. But Roger lifted up his head and 
broke in, and said : " Yea, yea ! that is it : we are all 
become men of peace, we riders of the Dry Tree ! " 
And he laughed withal, but as one nowise best pleased. 

But as Ralph was gathering his words together, and 
Ursula was looking up to him with trouble in her face 
again, came a man of the thorp rushing into the hall, 
and cried out : <c O, my lords ! there are weaponed 
men coming forth from the thicket. Save us, we pray 
you, for we are ill-weaponed and men of peace." 

Roger laughed, and said : " Eh, good man ! So ye 
207 



want us back again ? But my Lord Ralph, and thou 
Richard, and thou Stephen, come ye to the shot-win- 
dow here, that giveth on to the forest. We are high up 
here, and we shall see all as clearly as in a good mirror. 
Hast thou shut the gates, carle?" "Yea, Lord 
Roger," quoth he, "and there are some fifty of us 
together down in the base-court." 

Ralph and Richard and Stephen looked forth from 
the shot window, and saw verily a band of men riding 
down the bent into the thorp, and Ralph, who as 
aforesaid was far-sighted and clear-sighted, said : 
" Yea, it is strange : but without doubt these are 
riders of the Dry Tree ; and they seem to me to be 
some ten-score. Thou Stephen, thou Roger, what is 
to hand ? Is your Captain wont to give a gift and take 
it back . . . and somewhat more with it?" Stephen 
looked abashed at his word; and Roger hung his 
head again. 

But therewith the Sage drew up to them and said : 
" Be not dismayed, Lord Ralph. What wert thou 
going to say to the Champions when this carle brake 
in?" 

"This," said Ralph, " that I thanked the Dry Tree 
heartily for its gift, but that meseemed it naught wise 
to leave this stronghold disgarnished of men till I can 
come or send back from Upmeads." 

Stephen's face cleared at the word, and he said : 
" I bid thee believe it, lord, that there is no treason in 
our Captain's heart; and that if there were I would 
fight against him and his men on thy behalf." And 
Roger, though in a somewhat surly voice, said the like. 

Ralph thought a little, and then he said : " It is 
well ; go we down and out of gates to meet them, 
that we may the sooner get on our way to Upmeads." 
And without more words he went up to Ursula and 
took her hand and went out of the hall, and down the 
rock-cut stair, and all they with him. And when they 

208 



came into the Base-court, Ralph spoke to the carles of 
the thorp, who stood huddled together sore afeard, 
and said : " Throw open the gates. These riders 
who have so scared you are naught else than the 
Champions of the Dry Tree who are coming back to 
their stronghold that they may keep you sure against 
wicked tyrants who would oppress you." 

The carles looked askance at one another, but 
straightway opened the gates, and Ralph and his com- 
pany went forth, and abode the new-comers on a little 
green mound half a bowshot from the Castle. Ralph 
sat down on the grass and Ursula by him, and she 
said : u My heart tells me that these Champions are no 
traitors, however rough and fierce they have been, and 
still shall be if occasion serve. But O, sweetheart, 
how dear and sweet is this sunlit greensward after 
yonder grim hold. Surely, sweet, it shall never be 
our dwelling?" 

" I wot not, beloved," said he ; " must we not go 
and dwell where deeds shall lead us ? and the hand of 
Weird is mighty. But lo thou, here are the new- 
comers to hand ! " 

So it was as he said, and presently the whole band 
came before them, and they were all of the Dry Tree, 
stout men and well weaponed, and they had ridden 
exceeding fast, so that their horses were somewhat spent. 
A tall man very gallantly armed, who rode at their 
head, leapt at once from his horse and came up to Ralph 
and hailed him, and Roger and Stephen both made 
obeisance to him. Ralph, who had risen up, hailed 
him in his turn, and the tall man said : cc I am the 
Captain of the Dry Tree for lack of a better; art 
thou Ralph of Upmeads, fair sir ? " " Even so," said 
Ralph. 

Said the captain : <c Thou wilt marvel that I have 
ridden after thee on the spur; so here is the tale 
shortly. Your backs were not turned on the walls of 

ii. 209 p 



the Burg an hour, ere three of my riders brought in to 
me a man who said, and gave me tokens of his word 
being true, that he had fallen in with a company of 
the old Burgers in the Wood Debateable, which belike 
thou wottest of." 

"All we of Upmeads wot of it," said Ralph. "Well," 
said the Captain, c< amongst these said Burgers, who 
were dwelling in the wildwood in summer content, 
the word went free that they would gather to them 
other bands of strong-thieves who haunt that wood, 
and go with them upon Upmeads, and from Upmeads, 
when they were waxen strong, they would fall upon 
Higham by the Way, and thence with yet more 
strength on their old dwelling of the Burg. Now 
whereas 1 know that thou art of Upmeads, and also 
what thou art, and what thou hast done, I have ridden 
after thee to tell thee what is toward. But if thou 
deemest I have brought thee all these riders it is not 
wholly so. For it was borne into my mind that our 
old stronghold was left bare of men, and I knew not 
what might betide ; and that the more, as more than 
one man has told us how that another band of the 
disinherited Burgers have fallen upon Higham or the 
lands thereof, and Higham is no great way hence ; 
so that some five score of these riders are to hold our 
Castle of the Scaur, and the rest are for thee to ride 
afield with. As for the others, thou hast been told 
already that the Scaur, and Hampton therewith is a 
gift from us to thee ; for henceforward we be the lords 
of the Burg of the Four Friths, and that is more than 
enough for us." 

Ralph thanked the Captain for this, and did him to 
wit that he would take the gift if he came back out 
the Upmeads fray alive : said he, " With thee and the 
Wheat-wearers in the Burg, and me in the Scaur, no 
strong-thief shall dare lift up his hand in these parts." 

The Captain smiled, and Ralph went on : " And 
210 



now I must needs ask thee for leave to depart ; which 
is all the more needful, whereas thy men have over- 
ridden their horses, and we must needs go a soft pace 
till we come to Higham." 

cc Yea, art thou for Higham, fair sir ? " said the 
Captain. " That is well ; for ye may get men there- 
from, and at the least it is like that ye shall hear 
tidings: as to my men and their horses, this hath 
been looked to. For five hundred good men of the 
Wheat-wearers, men who have not learned the feat of 
arms a-horseback, are coming through the woods 
hither to help ward thy castle, fair lord ; they will be 
here in some three hours' space and will bring horses 
for thy five score men, therefore do ye but ride softly 
to Higham and if these sergeants catch up with you 
it is well, but if not, abide them at Higham." 

<c Thanks have thou for this once more/' said 
Ralph ; " and now I have no more word than this 
for thee ; that I will come to thee at thy least word, 
and serve thee with all that I have, to my very life 
if need be. And yet I must say this, that I wot not 
why ye and these others are become to me, who am 
alien to you, as very brothers/' Said the Captain : 
" There is this to be said of it, as was aforesaid, that 
all we count thy winning of the Well at the World's 
End as valiancy in thee, yea, and luck withal. But, 
moreover, she who was Our Lady would have had 
thee for her friend had she lived, and how then could 
we be less than friends to thee ? Depart in peace, my 
friend, and we look to see thee again in a little while." 

Therewith he kissed him, and bade farewell ; and 
Ralph bade his band to horse, and they were in the 
saddle in a twinkling, and rode away from Hampton 
at a soft pace. 

But as they went, Ralph turned to Ursula and said : 
<( And now belike shall we see Bourton Abbas once 
more, and the house where first I saw thee. And 

211 



O how sweet thou wert ! And I so happy and so 
young.'' 

" Yea," she said, " and sorely I longed for thee, and 
now we have long been together, as it seemeth ; and yet 
that long space shall be but a little while of our lives. 
But, my friend, as to Bourton Abbas, I misdoubt me 
of our seeing it ; for there is a nigher road by the by- 
ways to Higham, which these men know, and doubtless 
that way we shall wend; and I am glad thereof; for I 
shall tell thee, that somewhat I fear that thorp, lest it 
should lay hold of me, and wake me from a dream." 

" Yea," said Ralph, " but even then, belike thou 
shouldst find me beside thee ; as if I had fallen asleep 
in the ale-house, and dreamed of the Well at the 
World's End, and then awoke and seen the dear bare- 
foot maiden busying her about her house and its 
matters. That were naught so ill." 

" Ah," she said, tc look round on thy men, and think 
of the might of war that is in them, and think of the 
deeds to come. But O how I would that these next 
few days were worn away, and we yet alive for a long 
while." 



CHAPTER XX. THEY COME TO THE 
GATE OF HIGHAM BY THE WAY. 

IT was as Ursula had deemed, and they made for 
Higham by the shortest road, so that they came 
before the gate a little before sunset : to the very 
gate they came not; for there were strong barriers 
before it, and men-at-arms within them, as though 
they were looking for an onfall. And amongst these 
were bowmen who bended their bows on Ralph and 
his company. So Ralph stayed his men, and rode up 
to the barriers with Richard and Stephen a- Hurst, all 
three of them bare-headed with their swords in the 
sheaths; and Stephen moreover bearing a white cloth 

212 



on a truncheon. Then a knight of the town, very 
bravely armed, came forth from the barriers and went 
up to Ralph, and said : " Fair sir, art thou a knight? " 
" Yea," said Ralph. Said the knight, " Who be ye ?" 
"I hight Ralph of Upmeads," said Ralph, and 
these be my men : and we pray thee for guesting in 
the town of my Lord Abbot to-night, and leave to 
depart to-morrow betimes." 

" O unhappy young man," said the knight, " me- 
seems these men be not so much thine as thou art 
theirs ; for they are of the Dry Tree, and bear their 
token openly. Wilt thou then lodge thy company of 
strong-thieves with honest men ? " 

Stephen a-Hurst laughed roughly at this word, but 
Ralph said mildly : " These men are indeed of the 
Dry Tree, but they are my men and under my rule, 
and they be riding on my errands, which be lawful." 

The knight was silent a while and then he said : 
" Well, it may be so ; but into this town they come 
not, for the tale of them is over long for honest men 
to hearken to." 

Even as he spake, a man-at-arms somewhat evilly 
armed shoved through the barriers, thrusting aback 
certain of his fellows, and, coming up to Ralph, stood 
staring up into his face with the tears starting into his 
eyes. Ralph looked a moment, and then reached down 
his arms to embrace him, and kissed his face ; for lo ! it 
was his own brother Hugh. Withal he whispered in 
his ear : cc Get thee behind us, Hugh, if thou wilt come 
with us, lad." So Hugh passed on quietly toward the 
band, while Ralph turned to the knight again, who 
said to him, "Who is that man ? " tc He is mine own 
brother," said Ralph. " Be he the brother of whom 
he will," said the knight, " he was none the less our 
sworn man. Ye fools," said he, turning toward the 
men in the barrier, <c why did ye not slay him ? " 
" He slipped out," said they, " before we wotted 

213 ' 



what he was about." Said the knight, " Where were 
your bows, then ? " 

Said a man : " They were pressing so hard on the 
barrier, that we could not draw a bowstring. Besides, 
how might we shoot him without hitting thee, belike ?" 

The knight turned toward Ralph, grown wroth and 
surly, and that the more as he saw Stephen and Richard 
grinning; he said: <c Fair sir, ye have strengthened 
the old saw that saith, Tell me what thy friends are, 
and I will tell thee what thou art. Thou hast stolen 
our man with not a word on it." 

c< Fair sir," said Ralph, " meseemeth thou makest 
more words than enough about it. Shall I buy my 
brother of thee, then ? I have a good few pieces in 
my pouch." The captain shook his head angrily. 

" Well," said Ralph, <c how can I please thee, fair 
sir?" 

Quoth the knight : " Thou canst please me best by 
turning thy horses' heads away from Higham, all the 
sort of you." He stepped back toward the barriers, 
and then came forward again, and said : " Look you, 
man-at-arms, I warn thee that I trust thee not, and 
deem that thou liest. Now have I mind to issue out 
and fall upon you : for ye shall be evil guests in my 
Lord Abbot's lands." 

Now at last Ralph waxed somewhat wroth, and he 
said : " Come out then, if you will, and we shall meet 
you man for man ; there is yet light on this lily lea, and 
we will do so much for thee, churl though thou be." 

But as he spoke, came the sound of horus, and lo, 
over the bent showed the points of spears, and then 
all those five-score of the Dry Tree whom the captain 
had sent after Ralph came pouring down the bent. 
The knight looked on them under the sharp of his 
hand, till he saw the Dry Tree on their coats also, and 
then he turned and gat him hastily into the barriers ; 
and when he was amongst his own men he fell to 

214 



roaring out a defiance to Ralph, and a bolt flew 
forth, and two or three shafts, but hurt no one. 
Richard and Stephen drew their swords, but Ralph 
cried out : " Come away, friends, tarry not to bicker 
with these fools, who are afraid of they know not 
what : it is but lying under the naked heaven to- 
night instead of under the rafters, but we have all 
lodged thus a many times : and we shall be nigher to 
our journey's end to-morrow when we wake up." 

Therewith he turned his horse with Richard and 
Stephen and came to his own men. There was much 
laughter and jeering at the Abbot's men amidst of the 
Dry Tree, both of those who had ridden with Ralph, 
and the new-comers ; but they arrayed them to ride 
further in good order, and presently were skirting the 
walls of Higham out of bow-shot, and making for 
the Down country by the clear of the moon. The 
sergeants had gotten a horse for Hugh, and by Ralph's 
bidding he rode beside him as they went their ways, 
and the two brethren talked together lovingly. 

CHAPTER XXI. TALK BETWEEN THOSE 
TWO BRETHREN. 

RALPH asked Hugh first if he wotted aught of 
Gregory their brother. Hugh laughed and 
pointed to Higham, and said : "He is yonder." 
"What," said Ralph, < c in the Abbot's host?" 
" Yea," said Hugh, laughing again, <c but in his spi- 
ritual, not his worldly host : he is turned monk, 
brother ; that is, he is already a novice, and will be a 
brother of the Abbey in six months' space." Said 
Ralph : " And Launcelot Long-tongue, thy squire, 
how hath he sped ? " Said Hugh : " He is yonder 
also, but in the worldly host, not the spiritual : he is a 
sergeant of theirs, and somewhat of a catch for them, 
for he is no ill man-at-arms, as thou wottest, and 



besides he adorneth everything with words, so that 
men hearken to him gladly." 

<c But tell me," said Ralph, " how it befalleth that 
the Abbot's men of war be so churlish, and chary of 
the inside of their town ; what have they to fear ? Is 
not the Lord Abbot still a mighty man ? " Hugh 
shook his head : " There hath been a change of days 
at Higham ; though I say not but that the knights are 
over careful, and much over fearful." " What has 
the change been ? " said Ralph. Hugh said : " In 
time past my Lord Abbot was indeed a mighty man, 
and both this town of Higham was well garnished of 
men-at-arms, and also many of his manors had castles 
and strong-houses on them, and the yeomen were 
ready to run to their weapons whenso the gathering 
was blown. In short, Higham was as mighty as it 
was wealthy ; and the Abbot's men had naught to do 
with any, save with thy friends here who bear the 
Tree Leafless ; all else feared those holy walls and the 
well-blessed men who warded them. But the Dry 
Tree feared, as men said, neither man nor devil (and 
I hope it may be so still since they are become thy 
friends), and they would whiles lift in the Abbot's 
lands when they had no merrier business on hand, 
and not seldom came to their above in their dealings 
with his men. But all things come to an end ; for, as 
I am told, some year and a half ago, the Abbot had 
debate with the Westland Barons, who both were and 
are ill men to deal with, being both hungry and 
doughty. The quarrel grew till my Lord must needs 
defy them, and to make a long tale short, he himself 
in worldly armour led his host against them, and they 
met some twenty miles to the west in the field of the 
Wry Bridge, and there was Holy Church overthrown ; 
and the Abbot, who is as valiant a man as ever sang 
mass, though not over-wise in war, would not flee, 
and as none would slay him, might they help it, they 

216 



had to lead him away, and he sits to this day in their 
strongest castle, the Red Mount west-away. Well, he 
being gone, and many of his wisest warriors slain, the 
rest ran into gates again ; but when the Westlanders 
beset Higham and thought to have it good cheap, the 
monks and their men warded it not so ill but that the 
Westlanders broke their teeth over it. Forsooth, they 
turned away thence and took most of the castles and 
strong-houses of the Abbot's lands ; burned some and 
put garrisons into others, and drave away a mighty 
spoil of chattels and men and women, so that the 
lands of Higham are half ruined ; and thereby the 
monks, though they be stout enough within their 
walls, will not suffer their men to ride abroad. 
Whereby, being cooped up in a narrow place, and 
with no deeds to hand to cheer their hearts withal, 
they are grown sour and churlish." 

" But, brother," said Ralph, u howsoever churlish 
they may be, and howso timorous, I cannot see why 
they should shut their gates in our faces, a little band, 
when there is no foe anear them/' 

:c Ralph," said Hugh, <c thou must think of this 
once more, that the Dry Tree is no good let-pass to 
flourish in honest men's faces ; specialiter if they be 
monks. Amongst the brothers of Higham the tale 
goes that those Champions have made covenant with 
the devil to come to their above whensoever they be 
not more than one to five. Nay, moreover, it is said 
that there be very devils amongst them ; some in the 
likeness of carles, and some (God help us) dressed up 
in women's flesh ; and fair flesh also, meseemeth. 
Also to-day they say in Higham that no otherwise 
might they ever have overcome the stark and cruel 
carles of the Burg of the Four Friths and chased them 
out of their town, as we know they have done. Hah ! 
what sayest thou ? " 

" I say, Hugh," quoth Ralph angrily, " that thou 
217 



art a fool to go about with a budget of slanderous old 
wives' tales." Hugh laughed. " Be not so wroth, 
liitle lord, or I shall be asking thee tales of marvels 
also. But hearken. I shall smooth out thy frowns 
with a smile when thou hast heard this : this folk are 
not only afeard of their old enemies, the devil-led 
men, but also they fear those whom the devil-led men 
have driven out of house and home, to wit, the 
Burgers. Yet again they fear the Burgers yet more, 
because they have beaten some of the very foes of 
Higham, to wit, the Westland Barons ; for they have 
taken from them some of their strongholds, and are 
deemed to be gathering force." 

Ralph pondered a while, and then he said : c< Bro- 
ther, hast thou any tidings of Upmeads, or that these 
Burgers have gone down thither ?" cc God forbid ! " 
said Hugh. " Nay, I have had no tidings of Up- 
meads since I was fool enough to leave it." 

"What! brother," said Ralph, "thou hast not 
thriven then ? " 

" I have had ups and downs/' said Hugh, " but the 
ups have been one rung of the ladder, and the downs 
three or more. Three months I sat in prison for 
getting me a broken head in a quarrel that concerned 
me not. Six months was I besieged in a town whither 
naught led me but ill-luck. Two days I wore in 
running thence, having scaled the wall and swam the 
ditch in the night. Three months I served squire to 
a knight who gave me the business of watching his 
wife of whom he was jealous ; and to help me out of the 
weariness of his house I must needs make love myself 
to the said wife, who sooth to say was perchance worth 
it. Thence again I went by night and cloud. Ten 
months I wore away at the edge of the wildwood, 
and sometimes in it, with a sort of fellows who taught 
me many things, but not how to keep my hands from 
other men's goods when I was hungry. There was I 

218 



taken with some five others by certain sergeants of 
Higham, whom the warriors of the town had sent 
out cautiously to see if they might catch a few men 
for their ranks. Well, they gave me the choice of the 
gallows-tree or service for the Church, and so, my 
choice made, there have I been ever since, till I saw 
thy face this evening, fair sir." 

" Well, brother," said Ralph, " all that shall be 
amended, and thou shalt back to Upmeads with me. 
Yet wert thou to amend thyself somewhat, it might 
not be ill." 

Quoth Hugh : <c It shall be tried, brother. But 
may I ask thee somewhat?" Said Ralph: "Ask on." 
" Fair Sir," said Hugh, " thou seemedst grown into a 
pretty man when I saw thee e'en-now before this twi- 
light made us all alike ; but the men at thy back are 
not wont to be led by men who have not earned a 
warrior's name, yet they follow thee : how cometh 
that about ? Again, before the twilight gathered I 
saw the woman that rideth anigh us (who is now but 
a shadow) how fair and gentle she is : indeed there is 
no marvel in her following thee (though if she be an 
earl's daughter she is a fair getting for an imp of 
Upmeads), for thou art a well shapen lad, little lord, 
and carriest a sweet tongue in thy mouth. But tell 
me, what is she ? " 

" Brother," said Ralph kindly, fc she is my wife." 

tc I kiss her hands," said Hugh ; " but of what 
lineage is she?" 

"She is my wife," said Ralph. Said Hugh: 
<c That is, forsooth, a high dignity." Said Ralph : 
"Thou sayest sooth, though in mockery thou speakest, 
which is scarce kind to thine own mother's son : but 
learn, brother, that I am become a Friend of the 
Well, and were meet to wed with the daughters of 
the best of the Kings : yet is this one meeter to wed 
with me than the highest of the Queens ; for she also 

219 



is a Friend of the Well. Moreover, thou sayest it 
that the champions of the Dry Tree, who would think 
but little of an earl for a leader, are eager to follow 
me : and if thou still doubt what this may mean, 
abide, till in two days or three thou see me before the 
foeman. Then shalt thou tell me how much changed 
I am from the stripling whom thou knewest in 
Upmeads a little while ago." 

Then was Hugh somewhat abashed, and he said : 
" I crave thy pardon, brother, but never had I a well 
filed tongue, and belike it hath grown no smoother 
amid the hard haps which have befallen me of late. 
Besides it was dull in there, and I must needs try to 
win a little mirth out of kith and kin." 

"So be it, lad," quoth Ralph kindly, "thou didst 
ask and I told, and all is said." 

c< Yet forsooth," said Hugh, "thou hast given me 
marvel for marvel, brother." " Even so," said Ralph, 
and hereafter I will tell thee more when we sit safe 
by the wine at Upmeads." 

Now cometh back one of the fore-riders and draweth 
rein by Ralph and saith that they are hard on a little 
thorp under the hanging of the hill that was the be- 
ginning of the Down country on that road. So Ralph 
bade make stay there and rest the night over, and seek 
new tidings on the morrow ; and the man told Ralph 
that the folk of the thorp were fleeing fast at the 
tidings of their company, and that it were best that 
he and some half score should ride sharply into the 
thorp, so that it might not be quite bare of victuals 
when they came to their night's lodging. Ralph 
bids him so do, but to heed well that he hurt no man, 
or let fire get into any house or roof; so he takes his 
knot of men and rides off on the spur, and Ralph 
and the main of them come on quietly ; and when 
they came into the street of the thorp, lo there by the 
cross a big fire lighted, and the elders standing thereby 

220 



cap in hand, and a score of stout carles with weapons 
in their hands. Then the chief man came up to 
Ralph and greeted him and said : " Lord, when we 
heard that an armed company was at hand we deemed 
no less than that the riders of the Burg were upon 
us, and deemed that there was nought for it but to 
flee each as far and as fast as he might. But now we 
have heard that thou art a good lord seeking his own 
with the help of worthy champions, and a foeman to 
those devils of the Burg, we bid thee look upon us 
and all we have as thine, lord, and take kindly such 
guesting as we may give thee." 

The old man's voice quavered a little as he looked 
on the stark shapes of the Dry Tree ; but Ralph 
looked kindly on him, and said : "Yea, my master, 
we will but ask for a covering for our heads, and what 
victual thou mayst easily spare us in return for good 
silver, and thou shalt have our thanks withal. But 
who be these stout lads with staves and bucklers, or 
whither will they to-night ? " 

Thereat a tall young man with a spear in his hand 
and girt with a short sword came forth and said boldly : 
" Lord, we be a few who thought when we heard that 
the Burg-devils were at hand that we might as well die 
in the field giving stroke for stroke, as be hauled off and 
drop to pieces under the hands of their tormentors ; and 
now thou hast come, we have little will to abide behind, 
but were fain to follow thee, and do thee what good 
we can : and after thou hast come to thine above, when 
we go back to our kin thou mayst give us a gift if it 
please thee : but we deem that no great matter if thou 
but give us leave to have the comfort of thee and 
thy Champions for a while in these hard days/' 

When he had done speaking there rose up from the 
Champions a hum as of praise, and Ralph was well- 
pleased withal, deeming it a good omen ; so he said : 
" Fear not, good fellows, that I shall forget you when 

221 



we have overcome the foemen, and meanwhile we will 
live and die together. But thou, ancient man, show 
our sergeants where our riders shall lie to-night, and 
what they shall do with their horses." 

So the elders marshalled the little host to their 
abodes for that night, lodging the more part of them 
in a big barn on the western outskirt of the thorp. 
The elder who led them thither, brought them victual 
and good drink, and said to them : u Lords, ye were 
best to keep a good watch to-night because it is on 
this side that we may look for an onfall from the foe- 
men if they be abroad to-night ; and sooth to say that 
is one cause we have bestowed you here, deeming 
that ye would not grudge us the solace of knowing 
that your valiant bodies were betwixt us and them, 
for we be a poor unwalled people." 

Stephen to whom he spake laughed at his word, 
and said : " Heart-up, carle ! within these few days 
we shall build up a better wall than ye may have of 
stone and lime ; and that is the overthrow of our foe- 
men in the open field." 

So there was kindness and good fellowship betwixt 
the thorp-dwellers and the riders, and the country folk 
told those others many tales of the evil deeds of the 
Burg-devils, as they called them ; but they could not 
tell them for certain whether they had gone down 
into Upmeads. 

As to Ralph and Ursula they, with Richard and 
Roger, were lodged in the headman's house, and had 
good feast there, and he also talked over the where- 
abouts of the Burgers with the thorp-dwellers, but 
might have no certain tidings. So he and Ursula and 
his fellows went to bed and slept peacefully for the 
first hours of the night. 



222 



CHAPTER XXII. AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE 
COMES FROM THE DOWN COUNTRY TO 
SEE RALPH. 

BUT an hour after midnight Ralph arose, as his 
purpose was, and called Richard, and they took 
their swords and went forth and about the 
thorp and around its outskirts, and found naught 
worse than their own watch any where ; so they came 
back again to their quarters and found Roger standing 
at the door, who said to Ralph: "Lord, here is a 
man who would see thee." " What like is he ? " said 
Ralph. Said Roger^ cc He is an old man, but a tough 
one ; however, I have got his weapons from him." 
" Bring him in," said Ralph, " and he shall have his 
say." 

So they all went into the chamber together and there 
was light therein ; but the man said to Ralph : " Art 
thou the Captain of the men-at-arms, lord ? " " Yea," 
said Ralph. Said the man, " I were as lief have these 
others away." cc So be it," said Ralph ; u depart for 
a little while, friends." So they went, but Ursula lay in 
the bed, which was in a nook in the wall ; the man 
looked about the chamber and said : cc Is there any 
one in the bed ? " " Yea," said Ralph, " my wife, 
good fellow ; shall she go also ? '' <c Nay," said the 
carle, <c we shall do as we are now. So I will begin 
my tale." 

Ralph looked on him and deemed he had seen him 
before, but could not altogether call his visage to mind; 
so he held his peace and the man went on. 

" I am of the folk of the shepherds of the Downs : 
we be not a many by count of noses, but each one of us 
who is come to man's years, and many who be past 
them, as I myself, can handle weapons at a pinch. Now 
some deal we have been harried and have suffered by 

223 



these wretches who have eaten into the bowels of this 
land ; that is to say, they have lifted our sheep, and 
slain some of us who withstood them : but whereas 
our houses be uncostly and that we move about easily 
from one hill-side to another, it is like that we should 
have deemed it wisest to have borne this trouble, like 
others of wind and weather, without seeking new 
remedy, but that there have been tokens on earth and 
in the heavens, whereof it is too long to tell thee, lord, 
at present, which have stirred up our scattered folk 
to meet together in arms. Moreover, the blood of 
our young men is up, because the Burg-devils have 
taken some of our women, and have mishandled them 
grievously and shamefully, so that naught will keep 
point and edge from seeking the war-clash. Further- 
more, there is an old tale which hath now come up 
again, That some time when our folk shall be in great 
need, there shall come to our helping one from afar, 
whose home is anigh ; a stripling and a great man ; a 
runaway, and the conqueror of many : then, say they, 
shall the point and the edge bring the red water down 
on the dear dales ; whereby we understand that the 
blood of men shall be shed there, and naught to our 
shame or dishonour. Again I mind me of a rhyme 
concerning this which sayeth : 

The Dry Tree shall be seen 
On the green earth, and green 
The Well-spring shall arise 
For the hope of the wise. 
They are one which were twain, 
The Tree bloometh again, 
And the Well-spring hath come 
From the waste to the home. 

Well, lord, thou shalt tell me presently if this hath 
aught to do with thee : for indeed I saw the Dry 
Tree, which hath scared us so many a time, beaten 

224 



on thy sergeants' coats ; but now I will go on and 
make an end of my story." 

Ralph nodded to him kindly, for now he remem- 
bered the carle, though he had seen him but that once 
when he rode the Greenway across the downs to 
Higham. The old man looked up at him as if he 
too had an inkling of old acquaintance with Ralph, 
but went on presently : 

" There is a woman who dwells alone with none to 
help her, anigh to Saint Ann's Chapel ; a woman not 
very old ; for she is of mine own age, and time was 
we have had many a fair play in the ingles of the 
downs in the July weather not very old, I say, but 
wondrous wise, as I know better than most men ; for 
oft, even when she was young, would she foretell 
things to come to me, and ever it fell out according 
to her spaedom. To the said woman I sought to- 
day in the morning, not to win any wisdom of her, 
but to talk over remembrances of old days ; but when 
I came into her house, lo, there was my carline 
walking up and down the floor, and she turned round 
upon me like the young woman of past days, and 
stamped her foot and cried out : l What does the slug- 
gard dallying about women's chambers when the time 
is come for the deliverance ? ' 

u I let her talk, and spake no word lest I should 
spoil her story, and she went on : 

" ' Take thy staff, lad, for thou art stout as well 
as merry, and go adown to the thorps at the feet 
of the downs toward Higham ; keep thee well from 
the Burg-devils, and go from stead to stead till thou 
comest on a captain of men-at-arms who is lord over 
a company of green-coats, green-coats of the Dry 
Tree a young lord, fair-faced, and kind-faced, and 
mighty, and not to be conquered, and the blessing of 
the folk and the leader of the Shepherds, and the foe 
of their foeman and the well-beloved of Bear-father. 

u. 225 Q 



Go night and day, sit not down to eat, stand not to 
drink; heed none that crieth after thee for deliver- 
ance, but go, go, go till thou hast found him. Me- 
seems I see him riding toward Higham, but those 
dastards will not open gate to him, of that be sure. 
He shall pass on and lie to-night, it may be at Mile- 
ham, it may be at Milton, it may be at Garton ; at 
one of those thorps shall ye find him. And when ye 
have found him thus bespeak him : O bright Friend 
of the Well, turn not aside to fall on the Burgers in 
this land, either at Foxworth Castle, or the Long- 
ford, or the Nineways Garth : all that thou mayest do 
hereafter, thou or thy champions. There be Burgers 
otherwhere, housed in no strong castle, but wending 
the road toward the fair greensward ofUpmeads. If 
thou delay to go look on them, then shall thy work be 
to begin again amid sorrow of heart and loss that may 
not be remedied/ Hast thou heard me, lord ? " 

" Yea, verily," said Ralph, <c and at sunrise shall we 
be in the saddle to ride straight to Upmeads. For I 
know thee, friend." 

" Hold a while," said the carle, <c for meseemeth I 
know thee also. But this withal she said : ' But 
hearken, Giles, hearken a while, for I see him clearly, 
and the men that he rideth with, and the men that are 
following to his aid, fierce and fell are they ; but so 
withal are the foemen that await them, and his are few, 
howsoever fierce. Therefore bid him this also. Haste, 
haste, haste! But haste not overmuch, lest thou 
speed the worse : in Bear Castle I see a mote of our 
folk, and thee amidst of it with thy champions, and I 
see the staves of the Shepherds rising round thee like 
a wood. In Wulstead I see a valiant man with sword 
by'lide and sallet on head, and with him sitteth a tall 
man-at-arms grizzle-headed and red-bearded, big- 
boned and mighty; they sit at the wine in a fair 
chamber, and a well-looking dame serveth them ; and 

226 



there are weaponed men no few about the streets. 
Wilt thou pass by friends, and old friends ? Now 
ride on, Green Coats ! stride forth, Shepherds ! staves 
on your shoulders, Wool- wards ! and there goes the 
host over the hills into Upmeads, and the Burg- devils 
will have come from the Wood Debateable to find 
graves by the fair river. And then do thy will, O 
Friend of the Well/" 

The carle took a breath, and then he said : " Lord, 
this is the say I was charged with, and if thou under- 
standest it, well ; but if it be dark to thee, I may 
make it clear if thou ask me aught." 

Ralph pondered a while, and then he said : u Is it 
known of others than thy spaewife that the Burgers 
be in Upmeads?" "Nay, lord," said the carle, 
" and this also I say to thee, that I deem by what 
she said that they be not in Upmeads yet, and but 
drawing thitherward, as I deem from the Wood De- 
bateable." 

Ralph arose from his seat and strode up and down 
the chamber a while ; then he went to the bed, and 
stood over Ursula, who lay twixt sleeping and waking, 
for she was weary ; then he came back to the carle, 
and said to him : <c Good friend, I thank thee, and 
this is what I shall do : when daylight is broad (and 
lo, the dawn beginning !) I shall gather my men, and 
ride the shortest way, which thou shalt show me, to 
Bear Castle, and there I shall give the token of the 
four fires which erewhile a good man of the Shep- 
herds bade me if I were in need. And it seems to me 
that there shall the mote be hallowed, though it may 
be not before nightfall. But the mote done, we shall 
wend, the whole host of us, be we few or many, down 
to Wulstead, where we shall fall in with my friend 
Clement Chapman, and hear tidings. Thence shall 
we wend the dear ways I know into the land where 
I was born and the folk amongst whom I shall 

227 



die. And so let St. Nicholas and All Hallows do as 
they will with us. Deemest thou, friend, that this is 
the meaning of thy wise she- friend ? " 

The carle's eyes glittered, and he rose up and stood 
close by Ralph, and said : " Even so she meant ; and 
now I seem to see that but few of thy riders shall be 
lacking when they turn their heads away from Up- 
meads towards the strong-places of the Burg-devils 
that are hereabouts. But tell me, Captain of the host, 
is that victual and bread that I see on the board?" 

Ralph laughed : cc Fall to, friend, and eat thy fill ; 
and here is wine withal. Thou needest not to fear it. 
Wert thou any the worse of the wine that Thirly 
poured into thee that other day ? " 

"Nay, nay, master," said the carle between his 
mouthfuls, u but mickle the better, as I shall be after 
this : all luck to thee ! Yet see I that I need not wish 
thee luck, since that is thine already. Sooth to say, I 
deemed I knew thee when I first set eyes on thee 
again. I looked not to see thee more ; though I spoke 
to thee words at that time which came from my heart, 
almost without my will. Though it is but a little 
while ago, thou hast changed much since then, and 
hast got another sort of look in the eyes than then 
they had. Nay, nay," said he laughing, <c not when 
thou lookest on me so frankly and kindly; that is 
like thy look when we passed Thirly about. Yea, I 
see the fashion of it : one look is for thy friends, 
another for thy foes. God be praised for both. And 
now I am full, I will go look on thy wife." 

So he went up to the bed and stood over Ursula, 
While she, who was now fully awake, smiled up into 
his face. The old man smiled back at her and bent 
down and kissed her mouth, and said : " I ask thy 
pardon, lady, and thine, my lord, if I be too free, but 
such is our custom of the Downs ; and sooth to say 
thy face is one that even a old man should not fail to 

228 



kiss if occasion serve, so that he may go to paradise 
with the taste thereof on his lips." 

" We are nowise hurt by thy love, friend," said 
Ursula ; " God make thy latter days of life sweet to 
thee!" 



CHAPTER XXIII. THEY RIDE TO BEAR 
CASTLE. 

BUT while they spake thus and were merry, the 
dawn had wellnigh passed into daylight. Then 
Ralph bade old Giles sleep for an hour, and 
went forth and called Roger and Richard and went to 
the great barn. There he bade the watch wake up 
Stephen and all men, and they gat to horse as speedily 
as they might, and were on the road ere the sun was 
fully up. The spearmen of the thorp did not fail 
them, and numbered twenty and three all told. Giles 
had a horse given him and rode the way by Ralph. 

They rode up and down the hills and dales, but 
went across country and not by the Greenway, for 
thuswise the road was shorter. 

But when they had gone some two leagues, and were 
nigh on the top of a certain low green ridge, they 
deemed that they heard men's voices anigh and the 
clash of arms ; and it must be said that by Ralph's 
rede they journeyed somewhat silently. So Ralph, 
who was riding first with Giles, bid all stay and let 
the crown of the ridge cover them. So did they, and 
Giles gat off his horse and crept on to the top of the 
ridge till he could see down to the dale below. Pre- 
sently he came down again the old face of him puckered 
with mirth, and said softly to Ralph : " Did I not say 
thou wert lucky ? here is the first fruits thereof. Ride 
over the ridge, lord, at once, and ye shall have what 
there is of them as safe as a sheep in a penfold." 

So Ralph drew sword and beckoned his men up, 

22Q 



and they all handled their weapons and rode over the 
brow, and tarried not one moment there, not even to 
cry their cries ; for down in the bottom were a sort of 
men, two score and six (as they counted them after- 
ward) sitting or lying about a cooking fire, or loiter- 
ing here and there, with their horses standing behind 
them, and they mostly unhelmed. The Champions 
knew them at once for men of their old foes, and 
there was scarce time for a word ere the full half of 
them had passed by the sword of the Dry Tree ; then 
Ralph cried out to spare the rest, unless they offered to 
run ; so the foemen cast down their weapons and stood 
still, and were presently brought before Ralph, who sat 
on the grass amidst of the ring of the Champions. He 
looked on them a while and remembered the favour 
of those whom he had seen erewhile in the Burg; 
but ere he could speak Giles said softly in his ear : 
" These be of the Burg, forsooth, as ye may see by 
their dogs' faces ; but they be not clad nor armed as 
those whom we have met heretofore. Ask them 
whence they be, lord." 

Ralph spake and said : " Whence and whither are 
ye, ye manslayers ? " But no man of them answered. 
Then said Ralph : " Pass these murderers by the edge 
of the sword, Stephen ; unless some one of them will 
save his life and the life of his fellows by speaking." 

As he spake, one of the youngest of the men hung 
down his head a little, and then raised it up : " Wilt 
thou spare our lives if I speak ? " " Yea," said Ralph. 
" Wilt thou swear it by the edge of the blade ? " said 
the man. Ralph drew forth his sword and said : " Lo 
then! I swear it." The man nodded his head, and 
said : " Few words are best ; and whereas I wot not 
if my words will avail thee aught, and since they will 
save our lives, I will tell thee truly. We are men of 
the Burg whom these green-coated thieves drave out 
of the Burg on an unlucky day. Well, some of us, 

230 



of whom I was one, fetched a compass and crossed the 
water that runneth through Up meads by the Red 
Bridge, and so gat us into the Wood Debateable 
through the Uplands. There we struck a bargain 
with the main band of strong- thieves of the wood, that 
we and they together would get us a new home in 
Upmeads, which is a fat and pleasant land. So we got 
us ready ; but the Woodmen told us that the Upmeads 
carles, though they be not many, are strong and daunt- 
less, and since we now had pleasant life before us, with 
good thralls to work for us, and with plenty of fair 
women for our bed-mates, we deemed it best to have 
the most numbers we might, so that we might over- 
whelm the said carles at one blow, and get as few of 
ourselves slain as might be. Now we knew that 
another band of us had entered the lands of the Abbot 
of Higham, and had taken hold of some of his castles ; 
wherefore the captains considered and thought, and 
sent us to give bidding to our folk south here to 
march at once toward us in Upmeads, that our bands 
might meet there, and scatter all before us. There is 
our story, lord." 

Ralph knitted his brow, and said : " Tell me (and 
thy life lieth on thy giving true answers), do thy folk 
in these strongholds know of your purpose of falling 
upon Upmeads ? " " Nay," said the Burger. Said 
Ralph : " And will they know otherwise if ye do them 
not to wit ? " " Nay," again said the man. Said Ralph : 
" Are thy folk already in Upmeads ? " " Nay," said 
the captive, "but by this time they will be on the 
road thither." " How many all told ? " said Ralph. 
The man reddened and stammered : " A thousand 
two two thousand- A thousand, lord," said he. 
" Get thy sword ready, Stephen," said Ralph. u How 
many, on thy life, Burger ? " cc Two thousand, lord," 
said the man. " And how many do ye look to have 
from Higham-land? " Said the Burger," Somewhat 

2JI 



more than a thousand." Withal he looked uneasily 
at his fellows, some of whom were scowling on him 
felly. "Tell me now," said Ralph, where be the 
other bands of the Burgers ? " 

Ere the captive could speak, he who stood next him 
snatched an unsheathed knife from the girdle of one 
of the Dry Tree, and quick as lightning thrust it into 
his fellow's belly, so that he fell dead at once amongst 
them. Then Stephen, who had his sword naked in his 
hand, straightway hewed down the slayer, and swords 
came out of the scabbards everywhere ; and it went 
but a little but that all the Burgers were slain at 
once. But Ralph cried out : " Put up your swords, 
Champions ! Stephen slew yonder man for slaying his 
fellow, who was under my ward, and that was but his 
due. But I have given life to these others, and so it 
must be held to. Tie their hands behind them and let 
us on to Bear Castle. For this tide brooks no delay." 

So they gat to horse, and the footmen from Garton 
mounted the horses of the slain Burgers, and had the 
charge of guarding the twenty that were left. So they 
rode off all of them toward Bear Castle, and shortly to 
say it, came within sight of its rampart two hours 
before noon. Sooner had they come thither ; but 
divers times they caught up with small companies of 
weaponed men, whose heads were turned the same 
way ; and Giles told Ralph each time that they were 
of the Shepherd-folk going to the mote. But now 
when they were come so nigh to the castle they saw a 
very stream of men setting that way, and winding up 
the hill to the rampart. And Giles said : " It is not to be 
doubted but that Martha hath sent round the war- 
brand, and thou wilt presently have an host that will 
meet thy foemen without delay ; and what there lacks 
in number shall be made good by thy luck, which once 
again was shown by our falling in with that company 



e en now." 



232 



<c Yea truly," said Ralph, <c but wilt thou now tell 
me how I shall guide myself amongst thy folk, and if 
they will grant me the aid I ask ? " 

" Look, look," said Giles, " already some one hath 
made clear thine asking to our folk ; and hearken ! 
up there they are naming the ancient Father of our 
Race, without whom we may do nought, even with the 
blessed saints to aid. There then is thine answer, lord." 

Indeed as he spoke came down on the wind the 
voice of a chant, sung by many folk, the words 
whereof he well remembered: SMITE ASIDE 
THE AXE, O BEAR-FATHER. And therewith 
rose up into the air a column of smoke intermingled 
with fire from each of the four corners of that strong- 
hold of the Ancient Folk. Ralph rejoiced when he saw 
it, and the heart rose within him and fluttered in his 
bosom, and Ursula, who rode close behind him, looked 
up into his face well pleased and happy. 

Thus rode they up the bent and over the turf 
bridge into the plain of the garth, and whatso of 
people were there flocked about to behold the new- 
come warriors ; sooth to say, there were but some two 
hundreds, who looked but few indeed in the great 
square place, but more were streaming in every minute. 
Giles led him and his men into the north-east corner 
of the castle, and there they gat off their horses and 
lay down on the grass awaiting what should betide. 

CHAPTER XXIV. THE FOLKMOTE OF 
THE SHEPHERDS. 

IN about an hour all the folk within the castle began 
to set toward the ingle wherein lay Ralph and his 
fellows, and then all rose up, while the folk of the 
Shepherds took their places on the slopes of the earth 
walls, but on the top hard by the fire, which was still 
burning, stood up an old hoar man with a beard ex- 

233 



ceeding long ; he had a sallet on his head, and held a 
guisarme in his hand. All men held their peace when 
they saw him standing there ; and straightway he pro- 
claimed the hallowing of the Mote in such form of 
words as was due amongst that folk, and which were 
somewhat long to tell here. Then was silence again 
for a little, and then the old man spake : " Few words 
are best to-day, neighbours ; for wherefore are we met 
together ? " There arose a hum of assent from the 
Shepherds as he spoke and men clashed their weapons 
together ; but none said any clear word. Then spake 
the old man : " We be met together because we have 
trouble on hand, and because there is a helper to hand, 
of whom the words of the wise and tales of old have 
told us ; and because as he shall help us, so shall we 
help him, since indeed our trouble is his also : now, 
neighbours, shall I say the word for you which ye 
would say to this young man, who is nevertheless old 
in wisdom, and true-hearted and kind ? " 

Then came the hum of yeasay again and the clash- 
ing of weapons, and the old man spake again : " Ralph 
of Upmeads, there thou standest, wilt thou help us 
against the tyrants, as we shall help thee ? " 

" Yea," said Ralph. Said the Elder : " Wilt thou 
be our Captain, if we do according to thy bidding ? 
For thou needest not fear our failing thee." 

Yea verily," said Ralph. 

Said the Elder : <c Ralph of Upmeads, wilt thou 
be our Captain as an alien and a hireling, or as a 
brother ? " 

<f As a brother," quoth Ralph. 

" Come up here then, Captain of our folk, and take 
my hand in thine, and swear by our fathers and thine 
to be a true brother of us, and take this ancient staff 
of war in thine hand. And, ye kindred of the Shep- 
herds, bear witness of his swearing. Yea and ye also, 
O neighbours of the Dry Tree ! " 



So Ralph went up on the wall-top and took the 
Elder's hand, and took from him the ancient guisarme, 
which was inlaid with gold in letters of old time ; and 
he swore in a loud voice to be a true brother of the 
Shepherd-folk, and raised the weapon aloft and shook it 
strongly, and all the Folk cried, " Hail our brother ! " 
and the Champions shouted gladly withal, and great 
joy there was in that ingle of the ancient work. 

Then spake the Elder and said : cc Ye champions of 
the Dry Tree, will ye wend with us under the Captain 
our brother against his foemen and ours ? " 

Then stood forth Stephen a- Hurst and said, 
"Master shepherd, for nought else are we come 
hither." 

Said the Elder : <c Will ye come with us as friends 
or as hirelings ? for in any case we would have you 
by our sides, and not in face of us ; and though we 
be shepherds, and unhoused, or ill-housed, yet have 
we wherewithal to wage you, as ye know well enough, 
who have whiles lifted our gear." 

Then Stephen laughed and said : cc True it is that we 
have whiles driven prey in your country, yea, and had 
some hard knocks therein ; but all that was in playing 
the game of war, and now since we are to fight side 
by side, we will be paid by our foes and not by our 
friends; so neither hair nor wool will we have of 
yours, whatever we may have of the Burgers; and it 
is like that we shall be good friends of yours hence- 
forward." 

Once more all they that were there shouted. But 
once more the Elder spoke and said : " Is any man 
now wishful to speak ? " None answered till a big 
and burly man rose up and said : u Nay, Tall Thomas, 
thou hast said and done all that need was, and I deem 
that time presses ; wherefore my mind is that we now 
break up this mote, and that after we have eaten a 
morsel we get ourselves into due array and take to 

235 



the road. Now let any man speak against this if he 
will." 

None gainsaid him ; nay, all seemed well-pleased. 
So the Elder proclaimed the breaking up of the mote, 
and they went from out the hallowed place and sat 
down in the dyke on the outside of the rampart and 
beheld the country which stretched out all lovely and 
blue before them, for the day was bright and fair. 
There then certain women brought victual and drink 
to them, and served the strangers first. 

So when they had eaten and drunk, Ralph bade the 
Shepherds array them duly, and appointed them leaders 
of tens and hundreds with the help of Giles, who was 
now clad in a hauberk and mail-coif and looked a 
proper man-at-arms. Then they told over their com- 
pany, and numbered of the Dry Tree one hundred 
and fifty champions, outtaken Stephen and Roger ; of 
the men of Garton were twenty and two, and of the 
Shepherds three hundred and seventy and seven stout 
carles, some eighty of whom had bows, and the rest 
glaives and spears and other staff-weapons. There 
was not much armour of defence amongst them, but 
they were one and all stark carles and doughty. 

So when they were told over and made five hundred 
and fifty and four, they gat them into array for the 
road ; and Ralph went afoot with no armour but his 
sallet, and a light coat of fence which he had gotten 
him in the Burg. He would have had Ursula ride 
on her palfrey with the Sage, but she would not, and 
held it for mirth and pleasure that she should go afoot 
through the land, now she was so nigh come home 
to her lord's house; so she went forth by Ralph's 
side with her broidered gown trussed through her 
girdle, so that the trimness of her feet drew the eyes 
of all men to them. As for Richard, he took a 
half score of the champions, and they rode on ahead 
to see that all was clear before the main host; 

236 



which he might well do, as he knew the country so 
well. 



CHAPTER XXV. THEY COME TO WUL- 
STEAD. 

THUS went they, and nought befell them to tell 
of till they came anigh the gates of Wulstead 
hard on sunset. The gates, it has been said ; 
for whereas Ralph left Wulstead a town unwalled, he 
now found it fenced with pales, and with two towers 
strongly framed of timber, one on either side the gate, 
and on the battlements of the said towers they saw 
spears glittering ; before the gate they saw a barrier 
of big beams also, and the gleaming of armour therein. 
Ralph was glad when he saw that they meant some 
defence ; for though Wulstead was not in the lands of 
Upmeads, yet it was always a friendly neighbour, and 
he looked to eke out his host therein. 

Wulstead standeth on a little hill or swelling of the 
earth, and the road that the company of Ralph took 
went up to the gate across the plain meadows, which 
had but here and there a tree upon them, so that the 
going of the company was beheld clearly from the gate; 
as was well seen, because anon came the sound of the 
blowing of great horns, and the spears thickened in 
the towers. Then Ralph stayed his company two 
bowshots from the barriers, while he himself, with his 
sword in his sheath, took Ursula's hand and set forth 
an easy pace toward the gate. Some of his company, 
and specially Roger and Stephen, would have letted 
him ; but he laughed and said, cc Why, lads, why ? 
these be friends." "Yea," quoth Roger, "but an 
arrow knoweth no kindred nor well-willers : have a 
care, lord." Said the Sage of Swevenham : cc Ye speak 
but after the folly of men of war ; the hands and the 
eyes that be behind the bows have other hands and 



eyes behind them which shall not suffer that a Friend 
of the Well shall be hurt." 

So Ralph and Ursula went forth, and came within a 
stone's cast of the barrier, when Ralph lifted up his 
voice and said : " Is there a captain of the townsfolk 
within the timber there ? " A cheery voice answered 
him : cc Yea, yea, lad; spare thy breath; I am coming 
to thee." 

And therewith a man came from out the barrier 
and did off his headpiece and ran straight toward 
Ralph, who saw at once that it was Clement Chapman ; 
he made no more ado, but coming up to Ralph fell 
to clipping him in his arms, while the tears ran down 
his face. Then he stood aloof and gazed upon him 
speechless a little while, and then spake : tc Hail, and 
a hundred times hail ! but now I look on thee I see 
what hath betid, and that thou art too noble and high 
that I should have cast mine arms about thee. But 
now as for this one, I will be better .mannered with 
her." 

Therewith he knelt down before Ursula, and kissed 
her feet, but reverently. And she stooped down and 
raised him up, and with a merry countenance kissed 
his face, and stroked his cheeks with her hand and 
said : " Hail, friend of my lord ! Was it not rather 
thou than he who delivered me from the pain and 
shame of Utterbol, whereas thou didst bring him safe 
through the mountains unto Goldburg? And but 
for that there had been no Well, either for him or 
for me." 

But Clement stood with his head hanging down, 
and his face reddening. Till Ralph said to him : 
" Hail, friend ! many a time we thought of this meet- 
ing when we were far away and hard bestead ; but this 
is better than all we thought of. But now, Clement, 
hold up thine head and be a stout man of war, for 
thou seest that we be not alone." 

238 



Said Clement : " Yea, fair lord, and timely ye come, 
both thou and thy company ; and now that I have my 
speech again which joy hath taken away from me at 
the first, I shall tell thee this, that if ye go further 
than the good town ye shall be met and fought withal 
by men who are over-many and over-fierce for us." 
" Yea," said Ralph, " and how many be they ?" 
Quoth Clement : " How many men may be amongst 
them I wot not, but I deem there be some two 
thousand devils." 

Now Ralph reddened, and he took Clement by the 
shoulder, and said : cc Tell me, Clement, are they yet 
in Upmeads ?" " Sooth to say," said Clement, " by 
this while they may be therein ; but this morn it was 
yet free of them ; but when thou art home in our 
house, thy gossip shall belike tell thee much more 
than I can ; for she is foreseeing, and hath told us 
much in this matter also that hath come to pass." 
Then spake Ralph : " Where are my father and my 
mother; and shall I go after them at once without 
resting, through the dark night and all ? " 

Said Clement, and therewith his face brightened : 
<c Nay, thou needest go no further to look for them 
than the House of Black Canons within our walls : 
there are they dwelling in all honour and dignity these 
two days past." " What !" said Ralph, "have they 
fled from Upmeads, and left the High House empty ? 
I pray thee, Clement, bring me to them as speedily as 
may be." 

" Verily," said Clement, cc they have fled, with many 
another, women and children and old men, who should 
but hinder the carles who have abided behind. Nicholas 
Longshanks is the leader of them down there, and 
the High House is their stronghold in a way ; though 
forsooth their stout heads and strong hands are a better 
defence." 

Here Ralph brake in : " Sweetling Ursula, though 



thy feet have worn a many miles to-day, I bid thee 
hasten back to the company and tell Richard that it 
is as I said, to wit, that friends and good guesting 
await them ; so let them hasten hither and come within 
gates at once. For as for me, I have sworn it that I 
will not go one step back till I have seen my father 
and mother in their house of Upmeads. Is it well said, 
Clement ?" cc Yea, forsooth," said Clement ; but he 
could not take his eyes off Ursula's loveliness, as she 
kilted her skirts and ran her ways like one of Diana's 
ladies in the wildwood. At last he said, " Thou shalt 
wot, fair sir, that ye will have a little band to go with 
thee from us of Wulstead ; forsooth we had gone to- 
morrow morn in any case, but since thou art here, all is 
well." Even as he spake a great shout broke out from 
the company as Ursula had given her message, and 
then came the tramp of men and horses and the clash 
of weapons as they set forward ; and Clement looked 
and beheld how first of all the array came Ursula, 
bearing the hallowed staff in her hand ; for her heart 
also was set on what was to come. Then cried out 
Clement : <c Happy art thou, lord, and happy shalt 
thou be, and who shall withstand thee ? Lo ! what a 
war-duke it is! and what a leader that marches with fate 
in her hands before thine host ! " 

Therewith were they all joined together, and Ursula 
gave the guisarme into Ralph's hand, and with his 
other hand he took hers, and the bar of the barrier 
was lifted and the gates thrown open, and they all 
streamed into the street, the champions coming last 
and towering over the footmen as they sat, big men 
on their big horses, as if they were very bodyguards 
of the God of War. 



240 



CHAPTER XXVI. RALPH SEES HIS 
FATHER AND MOTHER AGAIN. 

THUS came they into the market-place of Wul- 
stead nigh to Clement's house, and there the 
company stood in ordered ranks. Ralph looked 
round about half expecting to see his gossip standing 
in the door ; but Clement smiled and said : " Thou 
art looking round for thy gossip, fair sir ; but she is 
upon the north gate in war-gear ; for we be too few in 
Wulstead to spare so clean-limbed and strong-armed a 
dame from our muster ; but she shall be here against 
thou comest back from the Austin Canons, whither 
forsooth thou mayst go at once if thou wilt let me be 
master in the matter of lodging." Said Ralph, smil- 
ing: cc Well, King of Wulstead, since thou givest leave 
I will e'en take it, nor needest thou give me any guide to 
the House of St. Austin, for I know it well. Sweet- 
heart," said he, turning to Ursula, " what sayest thou : 
wilt thou come with me, or abide till to-morrow, when 
I shall show thee to my kinsmen? " a Nay," she said, 
" I will with thee at once, my lord, if thou wilt be kind 
and take me ; for meseemeth I also have a word to 
say to thy father, and the mother that bore thee." 

" And thou, Hugh," said Ralph, c< what sayest 
thou? " " Why, brother," said Hugh, " I think my 
blessing will abide the morrow's morn, for I have 
nought so fair and dear to show our father and 
mother as thou hast. Also to-morrow thou wilt have 
more to do; since thou art a captain, and I but a 
single varlet." And he smiled a little sourly on 
Ralph ; who heeded it little, but took Ursula's hand 
and went his way with her. 

It was but a few minutes for them to come to the 
House of the Canons, which was well walled toward 
the fields at the west of the town, so that it was its 
chief defence on that side. It was a fair house with a 

n. 241 R 



church but just finished, and Ralph could see down 
the street its new white pinnacles and the cross on its 
eastern gable rising over the ridge of the dortoir. 
They came to the gate, and round about it were 
standing men-at-arms not a few, who seemed doughty 
enough at first sight; but when Ralph looked on 
them he knew some of them, that they were old men, 
and somewhat past warlike deeds, for in sooth they 
were carles of Upmeads. Him they knew not, for he 
had somewhat cast down the visor of his helm ; but 
they looked eagerly on the fair lady and the goodly 
knight. 

So Ralph spake to the porter and bade him show 
him where was King Peter of Upmeads and his Lady 
wife ; and the porter made him obeisance and told him 
that they were in the church, wherein was service 
toward ; and bade him enter. So they went in and 
entered the church, and it was somewhat dim, because 
the sun was set, and there were many pictures, and 
knots of flowers in the glass of the windows. 

So they went halfway down the nave, and stood 
together there ; and the whole church was full of the 
music that the minstrels were making in the rood-Joft, 
and most heavenly sweet it was ; and as Ralph stood 
there his heart heaved with hope and love and the 
sweetness of his youth ; and he looked at Ursula, and 
she hung her head, and he saw that her shoulders 
were shaken with sobs ; but he knew that it was with 
her as with him, so he spake no word to her. 

Now when his eyes cleared and he was used to the 
twilight of the church, he looked toward the choir, and 
saw near to the Jesus altar a man and a woman standing 
together even as they were standing, and they were 
somewhat stricken in years. So presently he knew that 
this would be his father and mother ; so he stood still 
and waited till the service should be over; and by 
then it was done the twilight was growing fast in the 

242 



church, and the sacristan was lighting a lamp here and 
there in some of the chapels, and the aisles of the choir. 

So King Peter and his wife turned and came slowly 
down the nave, and when they were come anigh, Ralph 
spake aloud, and said: "Hail, King Peter of Up- 
meads ! " And the old man stopped and said unto him: 
u Yea, forsooth, my name is Peter, and my business 
is to be a king, or a kinglet rather; and once it 
seemed no such hard craft ; but now it all goes other- 
wise, and belike my craft has left me ; even as it fares 
with a leech when folk are either too well or too ill to 
need his leech- craft." 

Then he looked at Ralph and at Ursula, and said : 
<c Either my eyes are worse than I deemed yesterday, 
or thou art young, and a gallant knight, and she that 
is standing by thee is young, and fair. Ah, lad ! time 
was when I would have bid thee come home, thou 
and thy sweetling, to my house with me, and abide 
there in ease and feastfully ; but now the best rede I 
can give thee is to get thee gone from the land, for 
there is all unpeace in it. And yet, forsooth, friend, I 
know not where to send thee to seek for peace, since 
Upmeads hath failed us." 

While he spoke, and Ralph was sore moved by 
the sound of his voice, and his speech wherein kind- 
ness and mocking was so blended, the Dame of 
Upmeads came to Ralph and laid her hand on his arm, 
and said in a pleasant voice, for she was soft-hearted 
and soft-spoken both : u Will not the fair young 
warrior and his mate do so much for an old man and 
his wife, who have heard no tidings of their best 
beloved son for two years well nigh, as to come with 
them to their chamber, and answer a little question or 
two as to the parts of the world they have seen of 
late?" 

Ralph nodded yeasay and began to move toward 
the porch, the Dame of Upmeads sticking close to 

243 



him all the time, and King Peter following after and 
saying: cc Yea, young man, thou mayst think the worse 
of me for hanging about here amongst the monks, 
when e'en now, for all I know, the battle is pitched in 
Upmeads ; but N icholas and all of them would have 
it so Yea, and all my sons are away, fair sir ; though 
of the eldest, who meseems was born with a long head, 
we hear that he is thriving, and hath grown great." 

As he spake they were come into the porch, and 
passed into the open air, where it was still light ; then 
the Dame turned round on Ralph and caught him by 
the two arms and cried out and cast her arms about 
his neck ; and when she could sunder herself a little 
from him, she said : " O Ralph, I deemed that I knew 
thy voice, but I durst not halse thee till I knew it was 
mine own flesh and blood, lest I should have died for 
grief to think it was thee when it was not. O son, 
how fair thou art ! Now do off thy sallet that I may 
see thee, thy face and thy curly head." 

So did he, smiling as one who loved her, and again 
she fell to kissing and clipping him. Then his father 
came up and thrust her aside gently and embraced 
him also, and said : " Tell me, son, what thou art 
become ? Thou art grown much of a man since thou 
stolest thyself away from me. Is there aught behind 
this goodly raiment of thine ? And this fair lady, hath 
she stolen thee away from thy foes to bring thee home 
to us ? " 

Ralph laughed and said : <f No less than that, 
father; I will tell thee all presently; but this first, 
that I am the captain of a goodly company of men- 
at-arms ; and " <c Ah, son, sweetheart," said his 

mother, u and thou wilt be going away from us again 
to seek more fame : and yet, as I look on thee, thou 
seemest to have grown great enough already. I deem 
thou wilt not leave us.'* 

u Mother, my dear," said Ralph, cc to-morrow morn 
244 



we shall go down to battle in Upmeads, and the day 
after I shall come hither again, and bring you back to 
the High House with all honour and glory. But 
look, mother," and he took Ursula's hand, " here is a 
daughter and a darling that I have brought back to 
thee, for this is my wedded wife." 

Then Ursula looked beseechingly at the Dame, who 
took her in her arms and clipped her and kissed her, 
and said, " Welcome, daughter ; for I feel thy body 
that thou lovest me." 

Then said King Peter ; " Forsooth, son, she is a 
sweet and dainty creature. If there be a fairer than 
her, I wot not ; but none so fair have mine eyes 
looked on. Tell me whose daughter she is, and of 
what lineage ? " And therewith he took her hand and 
kissed her. 

But Ursula said : " I am come of no earl or baron. 
I am a yeoman's daughter, and both my father and 
my mother are dead, and I have no nigh kin save one 
brother who loveth me not, and would heed it little if 
he never saw my face again. Now I tell thee this : 
that if my lord biddeth me go from him, I will depart ; 
but for the bidding of none else will I leave him." 

King Peter laughed and said : " Never will I bid thee 
depart." Then he took her hand and said : " Sweetling, 
fair daughter, what is thy name ? " <c Ursula," she said. 
Said he : " Ursula, thy palms are harder than be the 
hands of the dainty dames of the cities, but there is 
no churls' blood in thee meseemeth. What is thy 
kindred of the yeomen ? " She said : " We be come 
of the Geirings of old time : it may be that the spear 
is broken, and the banner torn ; but we forget not 
our forefathers, though we labour afield, and the 
barons and the earls call us churls. It is told amongst 
us that that word is but another way of saying earl, 
and that it meaneth a man." 

Then spoke Ralph : " Father and mother both, I 



may well thank thee and bless thee that your eyes look 
upon this half of me with kind eyes. And now I 
shall tell thee that for this woman, her heart is greater 
than a king's or a leader of folk. And meseemeth 
her palms have hardened with the labour of deliver- 
ing me from many troubles." 

Then the Dame of Upmeads put her arms about 
Ursula's neck again, and bade her all welcome once 
more, with sweet words of darling and dear, and well- 
beloved daughter. 

But King Peter said : " Son, thou hast not told me 
what thou art become ; and true* it is that thou hast 
the look of a great one." 

Said Ralph : " Father and King, I have become 
the Lord of the Little Land of Abundance, the sworn 
brother of the Champions of the Dry Tree, the Lord 
of the Castle of the Scaur, the brother and War- 
duke of the Shepherds ; and to-morrow shall I be the 
Conqueror of the robbers and the devils of the Burg. 
And this be not enough for me, hearken ! I and my 
wife both, yea and she leading me, have drunk of the 
Well at the World's End, and have become Friends 
thereof." 

And he looked at his father with looks of love, and 
his father drew nigh to him again, and embraced him 
once more, and stroked his cheeks and kissed him as 
if he had become a child again : " O son," said he, 
" whatsoever thou dost, that thou dost full well. 
And lo, one while when I look on thee thou art my 
dear and sweet child, as thou wert years agone, and I 
love thee dearly and finely; and another while thou art 
a great and mighty man, and I fear thee; so much 
greater thou seemest than we poor upland folk." 

Then smiled Ralph for love and happiness, and he 
said : " Father, I am thy child in the house and at the 
board, and that is for thine helping. And I am thy 
champion and the fierce warrior afield, and that also is 

246 



for thine helping. Be of good cheer ; for thine house 
shall not wane, but wax." And all those four were 
full of joy and their hearts were raised aloft. 

But as they spake thus came a lay-brother and bent 
the knee before King Peter and bade him and the 
Dame of Upmeads to supper in the name of the Prior, 
and the Captain and the Lady therewith ; for indeed 
the rumour of the coming of an host for the helping 
of the countryside had gotten into that House, and the 
Prior and the brethren sorely desired to look upon the 
Captain, not knowing him for Ralph of Upmeads. So 
into the Hall they went together, and there the holy 
fathers made them great feast and joy; and King 
Peter might not refrain him, but told the Prior how 
this was his son come back from far lands, with the 
goodly Lady he had won to wife therein; and the 
Prior and all the fathers made much of Ralph, and 
rejoiced in their hearts when they saw how goodly a 
man of war he had gotten to be. And the Prior 
would lead him on to tell him of the marvels he had 
seen in the far parts of the world ; but Ralph said 
but little thereon, whereas his thought was set on the 
days that lay even before his feet ; yet some deal he 
told him of the uncouth manners of the lands beyond 
Whitwall, and at last he said : " Father, when the 
battles be over here, and there is peace on our lands 
again, I will ask thee to give me guesting for a night, 
that I may tell thee all the tale of what hath befallen 
me since the last summer day when I rode through 
Wulstead ; but now I ask leave of thee to depart, for I 
have many things to do this even, as behoveth a 
captain, before I sleep for an hour or two. And if it 
be thy will, I would leave the Lady my wife with my 
mother here at least till morrow morn." 

So the Prior gave him leave, loth though he were, 
and Ralph kissed his father and mother, and they 
blessed him. But Ursula said to him softly : 4C It is 

247 



my meaning to go with thee down into Upmeads to- 
morrow; for who knoweth what may befall thee." 
Then he smiled upon her and went his ways down the 
hall and out-a-gates, while all men looked on him and 
did him worship. 



CHAPTER XXVII. RALPH HOLDS CON- 
VERSE WITH KATHERINE HIS GOSSIP. 

RALPH went straight from St. Austin's to Cle- 
ment's house, and found much people about 
the door thereof, what of the townsmen, what 
of the men of his own host. He passed through these, 
and found Clement in his chamber, and with him a half 
score of such company as was without, and amongst 
them Roger and the Sage ; but Stephen and Richard 
both were amongst their men doing what was need- 
ful. All men arose when Ralph entered ; but he 
looked around, and could see nought of his gossip 
amongst them. Then he sat down by Clement 
and asked if he had any fresh tidings ; and Clement 
did him to wit that there had come in a carle 
from out of Upmeads, who had told them by sure 
tokens that the foe were come into the Upmeads-Iand 
at noon that day, and between then and sunset had 
skirmished with Nicholas and them that were holding 
the High House, but had gotten nought thereby. 
This man, said Clement, being both bold and of good 
sleight had mingled with the foe ; and had heard the 
talk of them, and he said that they had no inkling of the 
Shepherds or the Dry Tree coming against them ; but 
they looked to have aid from their own folk from the 
lands of Higham ; wherefore they made a mock of the 
defence of the Upmeads' men ; and said that since, when 
they were all joined together in Upmeads, they might 
enter where they would without the loss of a half-score 
men, therefore they would risk nought now ; nor would 

248 



they burn either the High House or the other stead- 
ings, since, said they, they were minded to keep them 
sound and whole for their own. 

These tidings seemed good to Ralph ; so he took a 
cup of wine and pledged the company, and said : 
" My masters, such of you as list to sleep long to-night 
had best be abed presently, for I warn you that the 
trumpets will blow for departure before the sun riseth 
to-morrow; and he that faileth to see to-morrow's 
battle will be sorry for his lack all his life long/* 

When he had thus spoken they all cried hail to 
him, and anon arose and went their ways. Then Ralph 
bade Clement come with him that he might visit the 
quarters of his men-at-arms, and see that all the 
leaders knew of the muster, and of the order of de- 
parting on the morrow ; and Clement arose and went 
with him. 

As they were on the way Ralph asked Clement 
what ailed his gossip Katherine that she had not come 
to meet him already ; and Clement laughed and said : 
" Nought, nought ; she is somewhat shamefaced to 
meet thee first amongst a many folk, and she not able 
belike to refrain her kisses and caresses to thee. Fear 
not, she is in her bower-aloft, and we shall find her 
there when we come back from our errand ; fear not ! . 
she will not sleep till she hath had her arms about thee." 
" Good is that," said Ralph ; " I had looked to see 
her ere now ; but when we meet apart from folk, some- 
thing we shall be able to say to each other, which be- 
like neither she nor I had liked to leave unsaid till we 
meet again." 

So came they to the chief quarters of the fighting 
men, and Ralph had all the leaders called to him, and 
he spake to them of how they should do on the mor- 
row, both footmen and horsemen, whatwise they should 
stand together, and how they should fall on ; and he 
told them all as clearly as if he were already in the 

249 



field with the foe before him ; so that they wondered 
at him, so young in years, being so old in the wisdom 
of war. Withal they saw of him that he had no 
doubt but that they should come to their above on 
the morrow ; and all men, not only of the tried men- 
at-arms of the Dry Tree, but they of the Shepherds 
also, even those of them who had never stricken a 
stroke in anger, were of high heart and feared not 
what should befall. 

So when all this business was over, they turned about 
and came their ways home to Clement's house again. 

They saw lights in the chamber or ever they entered, 
and when they came to the door, lo ! there within was 
Katherine walking up and down the floor as if she 
knew not how to contain herself. She turned and 
saw Ralph at the door, and she cried aloud and ran 
towards him with arms outspread. But when she drew 
nigh to him and beheld him closely, she withheld her, 
and falling down on her knees before him took his 
hand and fell to kissing it and weeping and crying out, 
" O my lord, my lord, thou art come again to us ! " 
But Ralph stooped down to her, and lifted her up, and 
embraced her, and kissed her on the cheeks and the 
mouth, and led her to the settle and sat down beside 
her and put his arm about her ; and Clement looked 
on smiling, and sat him down over against them. 

Then spake Katherine : " O my lord ! how great 
and masterful hast thou grown ; never did I hope to 
see thee come back so mighty a man." And again she 
wept for joy ; but Ralph kissed her again, and she 
said, laughing through her tears : cc Master Clement, 
this lord and warrior hath brought back with him 
something that I have not seen ; and belike he hath 
had one fair woman in his arms, or more it may be, 
since I saw him last. For though he but kisses me 
as his gossip and foster-mother, yet are his kisses 
closer and kinder than they were aforetime." 

250 



Said Clement: "Sooth is the Sage's guess; yet 
verily, fair sir, I have told her somewhat of thy 
journeys, so far as I knew of them." 

Said Katherine : " Dear lord and gossip, wilt thou 
not tell me more thereof now ? " 

" What!" said Ralph ; "shall I not sleep to-night?" 

<c Dear gossip," she said, " thou art over-mighty to 
need sleep. And ah ! I had forgotten in the joy of 
our meeting that to-morrow thou goest to battle ; and 
how if thou come not again?" 

Cl Fear nought," said Ralph ; u art thou not some- 
what foreseeing ? Dost thou not know that to-morrow 
or the day after I shall come back unhurt and victo- 
rious ; and then shall both thou and Clement come 
to Upmeads and abide there as long as ye will ; and 
then shall I tell thee a many tales of my wanderings ; 
and Ursula my beloved, she also shall tell thee." 

Katherine reddened somewhat, but she said : 
" Would I might kiss her feet, dear lord. But now, I 
pray thee, tell me somewhat, now at once." 

" So shall it be," said Ralph, " since thou wilt have 
it, dear gossip; but when I have done I shall ask thee 
to tell me somewhat, whereof hath long been wonder 
in my mind ; and meseemeth that by the time we 
are both done with tales, I shall needs be putting on 
my helm again. Nay, again I tell thee it is but a 
show of battle that I go to ! " 

So then he went and sat by Clement's side, and 
began and told over as shortly as might be the tidings 
of his journeys. And oft she wept for pity thereat. 

But when he was done and he had sat beholding 
her, and saw how goodly a woman she was, and how 
straight and well knit of body, he said : " Gossip, I 
wonder now, if thou also hast drunk of the Well ; for 
thou art too fair and goodly to be of the age that we 
call thee. How is this ? Also tell me how thou 
earnest by this pair of beads that seem to have led me to 

251 



the Well at the World's End ? For as I said e'en now, I 
have long marvelled how thou hadst them and where." 
<c Fair sir," said Clement, " as for her drinking of 
the Well at the World's End, it is not so ; but this is a 
good woman, and a valiant, and of great wisdom ; 
and such women wear well, even as a well-wrought 
piece of armour that hath borne many strokes of the 
craftsman's hand, and hath in it some deal of his very 
mind and the wisdom of him. But now let her tell 
thee her tale (which forsooth I know not), for night 
is growing old." 

CHAPTER XXVIII. DAME KATHERINE 
TELLS OF THE PAIR OF BEADS, AND 
WHENCE SHE HAD THEM. 

KATHERINE cast friendly looks on them and 
said : " Gossip, and thou, Clement, I will make 
a clean breast of it once for all. In the days when 
I was first wedded to Master Clement yonder, he found 
his bed cold without me, for he was a hot lover ; there- 
fore would he oft have me with him on his journeys, 
how hard soever or perilous the way might be. Yea, 
Clement, thou lookest the sooth, though thou sayest it 
not, I was nought loth thereto, partly because I would 
not grieve thee, my man ; but partly, and belike 
mostly, because I was wishful to see the ways of the 
world even at the risk of being thrust out of the world. 
So it befell us on a time to make a journey together, 
a journey exceeding long, in the company of certain 
chapmen, whereof some, and not a few, died on the 
way. But we lived, and came into the eastern parts 
of the earth to a city right ancient, and fulfilled of 
marvels, which hight Sarras the Holy. There saw we 
wonders whereof were it overlong to tell of here ; but 
one while I will tell thee, my lord. But this I must 
needs say, that I heard tell of a woman dwelling there, 

252 



who was not old by seeming, but had in her the wisdom 
of ten lives, and the longing gat hold of me to see 
her and learn wisdom of her. So I entreated many 
who were called wise, some with prayers, and some 
with gifts also, to help me to speech of her ; but I gat 
nothing either by praying or giving ; they that would 
have helped me could not, and they that could would 
not. So, what between one thing and another, the 
longing to see the Wise Woman grew as it were into 
a madness in me. Amidst of which we fell in with a 
merchant exceeding wise in ancient lore, who looked 
at me (though Clement knew it not) with eyes of 
love. Of this man I asked concerning the Wise 
Woman, and he seeing my desire, strove to use it 
merchant-like, and would deal with me and have in 
payment for his learning a gift which I had nought 
to do to give. Howbeit madness and my desire for 
speech with the Wise Woman got the better of me, 
and I promised to give no less than he would, trust- 
ing to beguile him after I had got my desire, and be 
quit of him. So he led me to the woman and went 
his ways. She dwelt all by herself in a nook of an 
ancient ruined palace, erst the house of the ancientest 
of all the kings of Sarras. When I came to her, I 
saw nought dreadful or ugsome about her : she was 
cheerful of countenance and courteous of demeanour, 
and greeted me kindly as one neighbour in the street 
of Wulstead might do to another. I saw her, that she 
was by seeming a woman of some forty winters, trim 
and well-fashioned of body, nowise big, but slender, 
of dark red hair and brown eyes somewhat small. 

" Now, she said to me, c I have looked for thee 
a while ; now thou art come, thou shalt tell me what 
thou needest, and thy needs will I fulfil. Yet needs 
must thou do a thing for me in return, and maybe 
thou wilt deem it a great thing. Yet whereas thou 
hast struck a bargain before thou earnest hither, if I 



undo that for thee, the bargain with me may be nought 
so burdensome. How sayest thou ? ' 

" Well, I saw now that I was in the trap, for ill had 
it been in those days had Clement come to know that 
I had done amiss ; for he was a jealous lover, and a 
violent man." 

Clement smiled hereat, but said nought, and 
Katherine went on : " Trap or no trap, if I were eager 
before, I was over-eager now; so when she bade me 
swear to do her will, I swore it without tarrying. 

" Then she said : c Sit down before me, and I will 
teach thee wisdom/ What did she teach me? say 
ye. Well, if I told you belike ye would be none 
the wiser; but so much she told me, that my heart 
swelled with joy of the wisdom which I garnered. 
Say thou, Clement, if I have been the worser woman 
to thee, or thy friends, or mine." 

c< Nay, goodwife," said Clement, cc I have nought 
against thee." 

Katherine laughed and went on : 

" At last the Wise Woman said, ' Now that thou 
hast of me all that may avail thee, comes the other 
part of our bargain, wherein I shall take and thou shalt 
give/ 

c< Quoth I, * That is but fair, and thou shalt find me 
true to thee/ She said, c lf thou be not, I shall know 
it, and shall amend it in such wise that it shall cost 
thee much/ 

" Then she looked on me long and keenly, and said 
afterward : e Forsooth I should forbear laying this 
charge upon thee if I did not deem that thou wouldst 
be no less than true. But now I will try it, whereas 
I deem that the days of my life henceforward shall not 
be many ; and many days would it take me to find a 
woman as little foolish as thee and as little false, and 
thereto as fairly fashioned/ 

" Therewith she put her hand to her neck, and took 
254 



thence the self-same pair of beads which I gave to 
thee, dear gossip, and which (praise be to All Hallows!) 
thou hast borne ever since ; and she said : c Now 
hearken ! Thou shalt take this pair of beads, and do 
with them as I bid thee. Swear again thereto/ So I 
swore by All Angels ; and she said again : c This 
pair of beads shall one day lead a man unto the Well 
at the World's End, but no woman ; forsooth, if a 
woman have them of a woman, or the like of them, 
(for there be others,) they may serve her for a token ; 
but will be no talisman or leading-stone to her; and 
this I tell thee lest thou seek to the Well on the 
strength of them. For I bid thee give them to a man 
that thou lovest that thou lovest well, when he is in 
most need ; only he shall not be of thine own blood. 
This is all that I lay upon thee ; and if thou do it, thou 
shalt thrive, and if thou do it not, thou shalt come to 
harm. And I will tell thee now that this meeting be- 
twixt us is not by chance-hap, but of my bringing 
about ; for I have laboured to draw thee to me, 
knowing that thou alone of women would avail me 
herein. Now shalt thou go home to thine hostel, and 
take this for a token of my sooth-saying. The wise 
merchant who led thee unto me is abiding thine home- 
coming that he may have of thee that which thou pro- 
misedst to him. If then thou find him at thine hostel, 
and he take thee by the hand and lead thee to bed, 
whereas Clement is away till to-morrow even, then 
shalt thou call me a vain word- spinner and a liar; 
but if when thou comest home there, the folk there say 
to thee the merchant Valerius is ridden away hastily, 
being called afar on a message of life and death, then 
shalt thou trow in me as a wise woman. Herewith 
depart, and I bid thee farewell/ 

" So I went my ways to my hostel trembling, and at 

the door I met the chamberlain, who said to me, 

Lady, the merchant Valerius hath been here seek- 

2 55 



ing thee, and he said that he would abide thy coming ; 
but amidst of his abiding cometh a man who would 
speak to him privily ; whereof it came that he called 
for his horse and bade me tell thee, Lady, that he was 
summoned on a matter of life and death, and would 
return to kiss thine hands in five days' space/ 

cc So I wotted that the woman had spoken sooth, and 
was wise and foreseeing, and something of a dread of 
her came upon me. But the next even back cometh 
Clement, and the day after we rode away from Sarras 
the Holy, and Valerius I saw never again. And as to 
the beads, there is nought to tell of them till they came 
into thine hands ; and something tells me that it was 
the will of the Wise Woman that to no other hands 
they should come." 

Here Katherine made an end, and both the men sat 
pondering her tale a little. As for Ralph, he deemed 
it certain that the Wise Woman of Sarras would be none 
other than she who had taught lore to the Lady of 
Abundance; but why she should have meant the 
beads for him he wotted not. Again he wondered 
how it was that the Lady of Abundance should have 
given the beads to Ursula, and whether she knew 
that they had no might to lead her to the Well at the 
World's End. And yet further he wondered how it 
was that Ursula, unholpen by the talisman, should 
have done so much to bring him to the Well; yea, 
and how she was the first to see it while he slept. 
But his heart told him that whereas he was seeking the 
Well with her, she must needs come thither with him, 
unless they were both cast away ; withal Katherine 
looked at him and said : cc Yea, dear lord, I wot what 
thou art thinking of; but couldest thou have left her, 
when thou hadst once found her again, Well or no 
Well?" "Sooth is that," said Ralph, "yet for all 
that she hath done without help of talisman or witch- 
craft is she the more worshipful and the dearer." 

256 



Then speech came into Clement's mouth, and he 
said : " Wife, it is as I said before, when thy gossip 
had just departed from us. It was meet enough that 
thou shouldst have loved him better than me; but 
now it is even less to be undone than ever, when he 
has come back bringing with him a woman so valiant 
and lovely as is my Lady Ursula. So thou must e'en 
take the life that fate hath sent thee." Katherine 
laughed through her tears, and said : <c Withal, good- 
man, I have been no bad wife to thee. And more- 
over, look thou, gossip dear : when I was wandering 
about with Clement amongst many perils, when our 
need seemed sorest, then would I think to give the 
beads to Clement ; but so soon as I began to speak to 
him of the Well at the World's End he would be- 
little the tale of it, and would bid me look to it if it 
were not so, that where the world endeth the clouds 
begin." 

As she spoke, Ralph lifted up his hand and pointed 
to the window, and said : " Friends, as we were speak- 
ing of all these marvels we were forgetting the need 
of Upmeads and the day of battle ; and lo now ! how 
the dawn is widening and the candles fading." 

Scarce were the words out of his mouth, when on the 
quietness of the beginning of day brake out the sound 
of four trumpets, which were sounding in the four 
quarters of the town, and blowing men to the gather- 
ing. Then rose up both Ralph and Clement and took 
their weapons, and they kissed Katherine and went 
soberly out-a-doors into the market-place, where 
already weaponed men were streaming in to the 
muster. 



n. 257 



CHAPTER XXIX. THEY GO DOWN TO 
BATTLE IN UPMEADS. 

BEFORE it was 'light were all men come into 
the market-place, and Ralph and Richard and 
Clement and Stephen a-Hurst fell to and ar- 
rayed them duly; and now, what with the company 
which Ralph had led into Wulstead, what with the 
men of the town, and them that had fled from Up- 
meads (though these last were mostly old men and 
lads), they were a thousand and four score and three. 
Ralph would go afoot as he went yesterday ; but to- 
day he bore in his hand the ancient staff of war, the 
gold-written guisarme ; and he went amongst the 
Shepherds, with whom were joined the feeble folk of 
Upmeads, men whom he had known of old and who 
knew him, and it was as if their hearts had caught fire 
from his high heart, and that whatever their past days 
had been to them, this day at least should be glorious. 
Withal anon comes Ursula from St. Austin's with the 
Sage of Swevenham, whose face was full smiling and 
cheerful. Ursula wore that day a hauberk under her 
gown, and was helmed with a sallet ; and because of 
her armour she rode upon a little horse. Ralph gave 
her into the warding of the Sage, who was armed at 
all points, and looked a valiant man of war. But 
Ralph's brother, Hugh, had gotten him a horse, and 
had fallen into the company of the Champions, saying 
that he deemed they would go further forth than a 
sort of sheep-tending churls and the runaways of 
Upmeads. 

As for Ralph, he walked up and down the ranks 
of the stout men of the Down-country, and saw how 
they had but little armour for defence, though their 
weapons for cutting and thrusting looked fell and 
handy. So presently he turned about to Giles, who, 
as aforesaid, bore a long hauberk, and said : " Friend, 

258 



the walk we are on to-day is a long one for carrying 
burdens, and an hour after sunrise it will be hot. 
Wilt thou not do with thy raiment as I do ? " And 
therewith he did off his hauberk and his other armour 
save his sallet. "This is good," said he, " for the sun 
to shine on, so that I may be seen from far ; but these 
other matters are good for folk who fight a-horseback 
or on a wall ; we striders have no need of them." 

Then arose great shouting from the Shepherds, and 
men stretched out the hand to him and called hail on 
his valiant heart. 

Amidst of which cries Giles muttered, but so as 
Ralph might hear him : <c It is all down hill to 
Upmeads ; I shall take off my iron-coat coming 
back again." So Ralph clapped him on the shoulder 
and bade him come back whole and well in any case. 
" Yea, and so shalt thou come back," said he. 

Then the horns blew for departure, and they went 
their ways out of the market-place, and out into the 
fields through the new wooden wall of Wulstead. 
Richard led the way with a half score of the Cham- 
pions, but he rode but a little way before Ralph, who 
marched at the head of the Shepherds. 

So they went in the fresh morning over the old 
familiar fields, and strange it seemed to Ralph that he 
was leading an host into the little land of Upmeads. 
Speedily they went, though in good order, and it was 
but a little after sunrise when they were wending 
toward the brow of the little hill whence they would 
look down into the fair meads whose image Ralph 
had seen on so many days of peril and weariness. 

And now Richard and his fore-riders had come up 
on to the brow and sat there on their horses clear 
against the sky; and Ralph saw how Richard drew 
his sword from the scabbard and waved it over his 
head, and he and his men shouted ; then the whole 
host set up a great shout, and hastened up the bent, but 

259 



with the end of their shout and the sound of the tramp 
of their feet and the rattle of their war-gear was mingled 
a confused noise of cries a way off, and the blowing of 
horns, and as Ralph and his company came crowding 
up on to the brow, he looked down and saw the 
happy meadows black with weaponed men, and armour 
gleaming in the clear morning, and the points of 
weapons casting back the low sun's rays and glittering 
like the sparks in a dying fire of straw. Then again 
he looked, and lo ! the High House rising over the 
meadows unburned and unhurt, and the banner of 
the fruited tree hanging forth from the topmost tower 
thereof. 

Then he felt a hand come on to his cheek, and lo, 
Ursula beside him, her cheeks flushed and her eyes 
glittering; and she cried out: " O thine home, my 
beloved, thine home ! " And he turned to her and 
said : " Yea, presently, sweetheart ! " " Ah," she 
said, u will it be long ? and they so many ! " <c And 
we so mighty ! " said Ralph. cc Nay, it will be but a 
little while. Wise man of Swevenham, see to it that 
my beloved is anigh me to-day, for where I am, there 
will be safety." 

The Sage nodded yeasay and smiled. 

Then Ralph looked along the ridge to right and 
left of him, and saw that all the host had come up 
and had a sight of the foemen ; on the right stood 
the Shepherds staring down into the meadow and 
laughing for the joy of battle and the rage of the 
oppressed. On the left sat the Champions of the 
Dry Tree on their horses, and they also were tossing 
up their weapons and roaring like lions for the prey ; 
and down below the black crowd had drawn together 
into ordered ranks, and still the clamour and rude 
roaring of the warriors arose thence, and beat against - 
the hill's brow. 

Now so fierce and ready were the men of Ralph's 
260 



company that it was a near thing but that they, and 
the Shepherds in especial, did not rush tumultuously 
down the hill all breathless and in ill order. But 
Ralph cried out to Richard to go left, and Giles to go 
right, and stay the onset for a while ; and to bid the 
leaders come to him where he stood. Then the 
tumult amidst his folk lulled, and Stephen a-Hurts 
and Roger and three others of the Dry Tree came to 
him, and Giles brought three of the Shepherds, and 
there was Clement and a fellow of his. So when they 
were come and standing in a ring round Ralph, he 
said to them : 

cc Brothers in arms, ye see that our foes are all in 
array to meet us, having had belike some spy in Wul- 
stead, who hath brought them the tale of what was 
toward. Albeit methinks that this irks not either 
you nor me ; for otherwise we might have found them 
straggling, and scattered far and wide, which would 
have made our labour the greater. Now ye can see 
with your eyes that they are many more than we be, 
even were Nicholas to issue out of the High House 
against them, as doubtless he will do if need be. 
Brethren, though they be so many, yet my heart tells 
me that we shall overcome them ; yet if we leave our 
strength and come down to them, both our toil shall 
be greater, and some of us, belike many, shall be slain ; 
and evil should I deem it if but a score of my friends 
should lose their lives on this joyous day when at last 
I see Upmeads again after many troubles. Where- 
fore my rede is that we abide their onset on the hill- 
side here ; and needs must they fall on us, whereas 
we have Wulstead and friends behind us, and they 
nought but Nicholas and the bows and bills of the 
High House. But if any have aught to say against 
it let him speak, but be speedy; for already I see a 
stir in their array, and I deem that they will send men 
to challenge us to come down to them." 

261 



Then spake Stephen a-Hurst : " I, and we all me- 
seemeth, deem that thou art in the right, Captain; 
though sooth to say, when we first set eyes on these 
dogs again, the blood so stirred in us that we were like 
to let all go and ride down on them." 

Said Richard : " Thou biddest us wisdom of war ; 
let them have the hill against them." Said Clement : 
" Yea, for they are well learned and well armed; 
another sort of folk to those wild men whom we 
overthrew in the mountains." 

And in like wise said they all. 

Then spake Stephen again : cc Lord, since thou wilt 
fight afoot with our friends of the Shepherds, we of 
the Dry Tree are minded to fare in like wise and to 
forego our horses ; but if thou gainsay it " 

cc Champion," said Ralph, " I do gainsay it Thou 
seest how many of them be horsed, and withal ye it 
is who must hold the chase of them ; for I will that 
no man of them escape." 

They laughed joyously at his word, and then he 
said : tc Go now, and give your leaders of scores and 
tens the word that I have said, and come back speedily 
for a little while ; for now I see three men sundering 
them from their battle, and one beareth a white cloth 
at the end of his spear ; these shall be the challengers." 

So they did after his bidding, and by then they had 
come back to Ralph those three men were at the 
foot of the hill, which was but low. Then Ralph 
said to his captains : " Stand before me, so that I be 
not seen of them until one of you hath made answer, 
c Speak of this to our leader and captain.' " Even so 
they did ; and presently those three came so nigh that 
they could see the whites of their eyes. They were 
all three well armed, but the foremost of them was 
clad in white steel from head to foot, so that he looked 
like a steel image, all but his face, which was pale and 
sallow and grim. He and his two fellows, when they 

262 



were right nigh, rode slowly all along the front of 
Ralph's battles thrice, and none spake aught to them, 
and they gave no word to any ; but when they came 
over against the captains who stood before Ralph for 
the fourth time, they reined up and faced them, and 
the leader put back his sallet and spake in a great 
and rough voice : 

" Ye men ! we have heard these three hours that ye 
were coming, wherefore we have drawn out into the 
meads which we have taken, that ye might see how 
many and how valiant we be, and might fear us. 
Wherefore now, ye broken reivers of the Dry Tree, 
ye silly shepherds of silly sheep, ye weavers and 
apprentices of Wulstead, and if there be any more, 
ye fools ! we give you two choices this morn. Either 
come down to us into the meadow yonder, that we may 
slay you with less labour, or else, which will be the 
better for you, give up to us the Upmeads thralls who 
be with you, and then turn your faces and go back to 
your houses, and abide there till we come and pull 
you out of them, which may be some while yet. 
Hah ! what say ye, fools ? " 

Then spake Clement and said : " Ye messengers of 
the robbers and oppressors, why make ye this roaring 
to the common people and the sergeants? Why 
speak ye not with our Captain ? " 

Cried out the challenger, " Where then is the Captain 
of the Fools ? is he hidden ? can he hear my word ? " 

Scarce was it out of his mouth ere the captains fell 
away to right and left, and there, standing by himself, 
was Ralph, holding the ancient lettered war-staff; his 
head was bare, for now he had done off his sallet, and 
the sun and the wind played in his bright hair ; glorious 
was his face, and his grey eyes gleamed with wrath and 
mastery as he spake in a clear voice, and there was 
silence all along the ranks to hearken him : 

" O messenger of the robbers ! I am the captain of 
263 



this folk. I see that the voice hath died away within 
the jaws of you ; but it matters not, for I have heard 
thy windy talk, and this is the answer: we will 
neither depart, nor come down to you, but will abide 
our death by your hands here on this hill-side. Go 
with this answer." 

The man stared wild at Ralph while he was speak- 
ing, and seemed to stagger in his saddle; then he let his 
sallet fall over his face, and, turning his horse about, 
rode swiftly, he and his two fellows, down the hill 
and away to the battle of the Burgers. None followed 
or cried after him ; for now had a great longing and 
expectation fallen upon Ralph's folk, and they abode 
what should befall with little noise. They noted so 
soon as the messenger was gotten to the main of the 
foemen that there was a stir amongst them, and they 
were ordering their ranks to move against the hill. 
And withal they saw men all armed coming from out 
the High House, who went down to the Bridge and 
abode there. Upmeads-water ran through the meadows 
betwixt the hill and the High House, as hath been 
said afore ; but as it winded along, one reach of it 
went nigh to the House, and made wellnigh a quarter 
of a circle about it before it turned to run down the 
meadows to the eastward ; and at this nighest point 
was there a wide bridge well builded of stone. 

The Burg-devils heeded not the men at the Bridge, 
but, being all arrayed, made but short tarrying (and 
that belike only to hear the tale of their messenger) 
ere they came in two battles straight across the 
meadow. They on their right were all riders, and 
these faced the Champions of the Dry Tree, but a 
great battle of footmen came against the Shepherds 
and the rest of Ralph's footmen, but in their rearward 
was a company of well-horsed men-at-arms ; and all 
of them were well armed and went right orderly and 
warrior-like. 

264 



It was but some fifteen minutes ere they were come 
to the foot of the hill, and they fell to mounting it 
with laughter and mockery, but Ralph's men held 
their peace. The horsemen were somewhat speedier 
than those on foot, though they rode but at a foot's 
pace, and when they were about halfway up the hill 
and were faltering a little (for it was somewhat steep, 
though nought high), the Champions of the Dry Tree 
could forbear them no longer, but set up a huge roar, 
and rode at them, so that they all went down the hill 
together, but the Champions were lost amidst of the 
huge mass of the foemen. 

But Ralph was left at the very left end of his folk, 
and the foemen came up the hill speedily with much 
noise and many foul mocks as aforesaid, and they were 
many and many more than Ralph's folk, and now 
that the Champions were gone, could have enfolded 
them at either end; but no man of the company 
blenched or faltered, only here and there one spake 
soft to his neighbour, and here and there one laughed 
the battle-laugh. 

Now at the hanging of the hill, whenas either side 
could see the whites of the foemen's eyes, the robbers 
stayed a little to gather breath ; and in that nick of 
time Ralph strode forth into the midst between the 
two lines and up on to a little mound on the hill-side 
(which well he knew), and he lifted up the ancient 
guisarme, and cried on high : " Home now ! Home 
to Upmeads ! " 

Then befell a marvel, for even, as all eyes of the 
foemen were turned on him, straightway their shouts 
and jeering and laughter fell dead, and then gave 
place to shrieks and wailing, as all they who beheld 
him cast down their weapons and fled wildly down 
the hill, overturning whatever stood in their way, 
till the whole mass of them was broken to pieces, 
and the hill was covered with nought but cravens and 

265 



the light-footed Shepherds slaughtering them in the 
chase. 

But Ralph called Clement to him and they drew a 
stalworth band together, and, heeding nought the chase 
of the runaways, they fell on those who had the 
Champions in their midst, and fell to smiting down 
men on either hand ; and every man who looked on 
Ralph crouched and cowered before him, casting down 
his weapons and throwing up his hands. Shortly to 
say it, when these horsemen felt this new onset, and 
looking round saw their men fleeing hither and thither 
over the green fields of Upmeads, smitten by the 
Shepherds and leaping into the deep pools of the 
river, they turned and fled, every man who could 
keep his saddle, and made for the Bridge, the Dry 
Tree thundering at their backs. But even as they 
came within bowshot, a great flight of arrows came 
from the further side of the water, and the banner of 
the Fruitful Tree came forth from the bridge-end 
with Nicholas and his tried men-at-arms behind it; 
and then indeed great and grim was the murder, and 
the proud men of the Burg grovelled on the ground 
and prayed for mercy till neither the Champions nor 
the men of Nicholas could smite helpless men any 
longer. 

Now had Ralph held his hand from the chase, and 
he was sitting on a mound amidst of the meadow 
under an ancient thorn, and beside him sat the Sage of 
Swevenham and Ursula. And she was grown pale 
now and looked somewhat scared, and she spake in a 
trembling voice to Ralph, and said : " Alas, friend ! 
that this should be so grim ! When we hear the owls 
a-nighttime about the High House, shall we not 
deem at whiles that it is the ghosts of this dreadful 
battle and slaughter wandering about our fair fields ? " 
But Ralph spake sternly and wrathfully as he sat there 
bareheaded and all unarmed save for the ancient glaive : 

266 



" Why did they not slay me then ? Better the ghosts 
of robbers in our fields by night, than the over-bur- 
dened hapless thrall by day, and the scourged woman, 
and ruined child. These things they sought for us 
and have found death on the way let it be ! " 

He laughed as he spake ; but then the grief of the 
end of battle came upon him and he trembled and 
shook, and great tears burst from his eyes and rolled 
down his cheeks, and he became stark and hard-faced. 

Then Ursula took his hands and caressed them, 
and kissed his face, and fell a- talking to him of how 
they rode the pass to the Valley of Sweet Chestnuts ; 
and in a while his heart and his mind came back to 
him as it did that other time of which she spake, and 
he kissed her in turn, and began to tell her of his old 
chamber in the turret of the High House. 

And now there come riding across the field two war- 
riors. They draw rein by the mound, and one lights 
down, and lo ! it is Long Nicholas ; and he took Ralph 
in his arms, and kissed him and wept over him for all 
his grizzled beard and his gaunt limbs ; but few words 
he had for him, save this : " My little Lord, was it 
thou that was the wise captain to-day, or this stout 
lifter and reiver ? " But the other man was Stephen 
a-Hurst, who laughed and said : 4< Nay, Nicholas, 
I was the fool, and this stripling the wise warrior. 
But, Lord Ralph, thou wilt pardon me, I hope, but 
we could not kill them all, for they would not fight in 
any wise ; what shall we do with them ? " Ralph knit 
his brows and thought a little ; then he said : " How 
many hast thou taken ? " Said Stephen : " Some 
two hundred alive." u Well," quoth Ralph ; " strip 
them of all armour and weapons, and let a score of 
thy riders drive them back the way they came into 
the Debateable Wood. But give them this last word 
from me, that or long I shall clear the said wood of 
all strong-thieves." 

267 



Stephen departed on that errand; and presently 
comes Giles and another of the Shepherds with a like 
tale, and had a like answer. 

Now amidst all these deeds it yet lacked an hour 
of noon. So presently Ralph arose and took Richard 
apart for a while and spoke with him a little, and then 
came back to Ursula and took her by the hand, and 
said : cc Beloved, Richard shall take thee now to a 
pleasant abode this side the water ; for I grudge that 
thou shouldst enter the High House without me ; and 
as for me I must needs ride back to Wul stead to bring 
hither my father and mother, as I promised to do 
after the battle. In good sooth, I deemed it would 
have lasted longer." Said Ursula : cc Dear friend, this 
is even what I should have bidden thee myself. Depart 
speedily, that thou mayst be back the sooner; for 
sorely do I long to enter thine house, beloved." Then 
Ralph turned to Nicholas, and said : " Our host is not 
so great but that thou mayst victual it well ; yet I 
deem it is little less than when we left Wulstead early 
this morning." 

" True is that, little lord," said Nicholas. " Hear 
a wonder amongst battles : of thy Shepherds and the 
other footmen is not one slain, and but some five 
hurt. The Champions have lost three men slain out- 
right, and some fifteen hurt ; of whom is thy brother 
Hugh, but not sorely/' " Better than well is thy story 
then," said Ralph. C( Now let them bring me a horse." 
So when he was horsed, he kissed Ursula and went 
his ways. And she abode his coming back at Richard's 
house anigh the water. 



268 



CHAPTER XXX. RALPH BRINGS HIS 
FATHER AND MOTHER TO UPMEADS. 

SHORT was the road back again to Wulstead, 
and whereas the day was not very old when 
Ralph came there, he failed not to stop at Cle- 
ment's house, and came into the chamber where 
sat Dame Katherine in pensive wise nigh to the win- 
dow, with her open hands in her lap. Quoth Ralph : 
" Rejoice, gossip ! for neither is Clement hurt, nor I, 
and all is done that should be done." She moved her but 
little, but the tears came into her eyes and rolled down 
her cheeks. " What, gossip ? " quoth Ralph ; " these 
be scarce tears of joy; what aileth thee?" "Nay," 
said Katherine, " indeed I am joyful of thy tidings, 
though sooth to say I looked for none other. But, 
dear lord and gossip, forgive me my tears on the day 
of thy triumph ; for if they be not wholly of joy, so 
also are they not wholly of sorrow. But love and the 
passing of the days are bitter-sweet within my heart 
to-day. Later on thou shalt see few faces more cheerful 
and merry in the hall at Upmeads than this of thy 
gossip's. So be merry now, and go fetch thy father 
and thy mother, and rejoice their hearts that thou 
hast been even better than thy word to them. Fare- 
well, gossip ; but look to see me at Upmeads before 
many days are past; for I know thee what thou art; 
and that the days will presently find deeds for thee, 
and thou wilt be riding into peril, and coming safe 
from out of it. Farewell ! " 

So he departed and rode to the House of St. 
Austin, and the folk gathered so about him in the 
street that at the gate of the Priory he had to turn 
about and speak to them ; and he said : " Good people, 
rejoice ! there are no more foemen of Wulstead anigh 
you now ; and take this word of me, that I will see to 

269 



it in time to come that ye live in peace and quiet 
here." 

Folk shouted for joy, and the fathers who were 
standing within the gate heard his word and rejoiced, 
and some of them ran off to tell King Peter that his 
son was come back victorious already ; so that by 
then he had dismounted at the Guest-house door, lo ! 
there was the King and his wife with him, and both 
they alboun for departure. And when they saw him 
King Peter cried out : <c There is no need to say a 
word, my son ; unless thou wouldst tell the tale to the 
holy father Prior, who, as ye see, has e'en now come 
out to us." 

Said Ralph : " Father and mother, I pray your 
blessing, and also the blessing of the father Prior 
here ; and the tale is short enough : that we have 
overthrown them and slain the more part, and the 
others are now being driven like a herd of swine into 
their stronghold of the Wood Debateable, where, for- 
sooth, I shall be ere the world is one month older. 
And in the doing of all this have but three of our 
men been slain and a few hurt, amongst whom is thy 
son Hugh, but not sorely/' 

" O yea, son," said his mother, " he shall do well 
enough. But now with thy leave, holy Prior, we will 
depart, so that we may sleep in the High House to- 
night, and feel that my dear son's hand is over us to 
ward us." 

Then Ralph knelt before them, and King Peter and 
his wife blessed their son when they had kissed and 
embraced each other, and they wept for joy of him. 
The Prior also, who was old, and a worthy prelate, 
and an ancient friend of King Peter, might not re- 
frain his tears at the joy of his friends as he gave 
Ralph his blessing. And then, when Ralph had risen 
up and the horses were come, he said to him : " One 
thing thou art not to forget, young conqueror, to wit, 

270 



that thou art to come here early one day, and tell me 
all thy tale at full length." 

"Yea, Prior," said Ralph, Cf or there is the High 
House of Upmeads for thee to use as thine own, 
and a rest for thee of three or four days while thou 
hearkenest the tale ; for it may need that." 

cc Hearken," said King Peter softly to the Dame, 
" how he reckons it all his own ; my day is done, my 
dear." He spake smiling, and she said : " Soothly 
he is waxen masterful, and well it becometh the dear 
youngling." 

Now they get to horse and ride their ways, while 
all folk blessed them. The two old folk rode fast 
and pressed their nags whatever Ralph might do to 
give them pastime of words ; so they came into the 
plain field of Upmeads two hours before sunset ; 
and King Peter said : " Now I account it that I have 
had one day more of my life than was my due, and 
thou, son, hast added it to the others whereas thou 
didst not promise to bring me hither till morrow." 

Ralph led them round by the ford, so that they 
might not come across the corpses of the robbers; 
but already were the Upmeads carles at work digging 
trenches wherein to bury them. 

So Ralph led his father and his mother to the 
gate of the garth of High House ; then he got off 
his horse and helped them down, and as he so dealt 
with his father, he said to him : c< Thou art springy 
and limber yet, father ; maybe thou wilt put on thine 
helm this year to ride the Debateable Wood with 



me." 



The old man laughed and said : " Maybe, son ; but 
as now it is time for thee to enter under our roof-tree 



once more." 



E< Nay," said Ralph, " but go ye in and sit in the 
high-seat and abide me. For did I not go straight 
back to you from the field of battle ; and can I suffer 

271 



it that any other hand than mine should lead my wife 
into the hall and up to the high-seat of my fathers ; 
and therefore I go to fetch her from the house of 
Richard the Red where she is abiding me ; but pre- 
sently I shall lead her in, and do ye then with us 
what ye will." 

Therewith he turned about and rode his ways to 
Richard's house, which was but a half-mile thence. 
But his father and mother laughed when he was gone, 
and King Peter said : " There again ! thou seest, wife, 
it is he that commands and we that obey." 

" O happy hour that so it is ! " said the Lady, cc and 
happy now shall be the wearing of our days." 

So they entered the garth and came into the house, 
and were welcomed with all joy by Nicholas, and told 
him all that Ralph had said, and bade him array the 
house as he best might; for there was much folk 
about the High House, though the Upmeads carles 
and queans had taken the more part of the host to 
their houses, which they had delivered from the fire 
and sword, and they made much of them there with a 
good heart. 



CHAPTER XXXI. RALPH BRINGS URSULA 
HOME TO THE HIGH HOUSE. 

RALPH speedily came to Richard's house and 
entered the chamber, and found Ursula alone 
therein, clad in the daintiest of her woman's 
gear of the web of Goldburg. She rose up to meet 
him, and he took her in his arms, and said : " Now 
is come the very ending of our journey that we so 
often longed for; and all will be ready by then we come 
to the High House." 

" Ah," she said, as she clung to him, " but they were 
happy days the days of our journey ; and to-morrow 



begins a new life." 



272 






u Nay," he said, Cf but rather this even ; shall it be 
loathly to thee, lady ? " 

She said : " There will be many people whom I 
knew not yesterday/' " There will be but me," he 
said, " when the night hath been dark for a little." 

She kissed him and said nought. And therewithal 
came some of Richard's folk, for it was his house, 
and led with them a white palfrey for Ursula's riding, 
dight all gay and goodly. 

" Come then," said Ralph, " thou needest not to fear 
the ancient house, for it is kind and lovely, and my 
father and my mother thou hast seen already, and they 
love thee. Come then, lest the hall be grown too 
dusk for men to see thy fairness." <c Yea, yea," she 
said, " but first here is a garland I made for thee, and 
one also for me, while I was abiding thee after the 
battle, and my love and my hope is woven into it." 
And she set it on his head, and said, " O thou art fair, 
and I did well to meet thee in the dark wood." 
Then he kissed her dearly on the mouth and led her 
forth, and none went with them, and they mounted 
and went their ways. 

But Ralph said : " I deem that we should ride the 
meadow to the bridge, because that way lies the great 
door of the hall, and if I know my father and Nicholas 
they will look for us that way. Dost thou yet fear 
these dead men, sweetheart, whom our folk slew this 
morning ? " cc Nay," she said, " it has been a long time 
since the morning, and they, and their fierceness which 
has so burned out, are now to me as a tale that hath 
been told. It is the living that I am going to, and I 
hope to do well by them." 

Came they then to the bridge-end and there was 
no man there, nought but the kine that were wander- 
ing about over the dewy grass of eventide. Then 
they rode over the bridge and through the orchard, 
and still there was no man, and all gates were open 

ii. 273 T 



wide. So they came into the base-court of the house, 
and it also was empty of folk ; and they came to the 
great doors of the hall and they were open wide, and 
they could see through them that the hall was full of 
folk, and therein by the light of the low sun that 
streamed in at the shot-window at the other end they 
saw the faces of men and the gleam of steel and 
gold. 

So they lighted down from their horses, and took 
hand in hand and entered bright-faced and calm, and 
goodly beyond the goodliness of men; then indeed 
all that folk burst forth into glad cries, and tossed 
up their weapons, and many wept for joy. 

As they went slowly up the long hall (and it was thirty 
fathom of length) Ralph looked cheerfully and friendly 
from side to side, and beheld the faces of the Shep- 
herds and the Champions, and the men of Wulstead, 
and his own folk ; and all they cried hail to him and the 
lovely and valiant Lady. Then he looked up to the 
high-seat, and saw that his father's throne was empty, 
and his mother's also ; but behind the throne stood a 
knight all armed in bright armour holding the banner 
of Upmeads ; but his father and mother stood on 
the edge of the dai's to meet him and Ursula ; and 
when they came up thither these old folk embraced 
them and kissed them and led them up to the table. 
Then Ralph bade Ursula sit by his mother, and made 
him ready to sit by his father in all love and duty. 
But King Peter stayed him and said: "Nay, dear 
son, not there, but here shalt thou sit, thou saviour 
of Upmeads and conqueror of the hearts of men ; 
this is a little land, but therein shall be none above 
thee." And therewith he set Ralph down in the 
throne, and Ralph, turning to his left hand, saw that 
it was Ursula, and not his mother, who sat beside 
him. But at the sight of these two in the throne 
the glad cries and shouts shook the very timbers of 

274 



the roof, and the sun sank under while yet they cried 
hail to the King of Upmeads. 

Then were the lights brought and the supper, and 
all men fell to feast, and plenteous was the wine in 
the hall ; and sure since first men met to eat together 
none have been merrier than they. 

But now when men had well eaten, and the great 
cup called the River of Upmeads was brought in, the 
cupbearers, being so bidden before, brought it last of all 
to King Peter, and he stood up with the River in his 
hand and spoke aloud, and said : " Lords and warriors, 
and good people all, here I do you to wit, that it is not 
because my son Ralph has come home to-day and 
wrought us a great deliverance, and that my love hath 
overcome me ; it is not for this cause that I have set him 
in my throne this even ; but because I see and perceive 
that of all the kindred he is meetest to sit therein so 
long as he liveth ; unless perchance this lovely and 
valiant woman should bear him a son even better than 
himself and so may it be. Therefore I do you all to 
wit that this man is the King of Upmeads, and 
this woman is his Lady and Queen; and so deem I 
of his prowess, and his wisdom, and kindliness, that I 
trow he shall be lord and servant of other lands than 
Upmeads, and shall draw the good towns and the 
kindreds and worthy good lords into peace and might 
and well-being, such as they have not known hereto- 
fore. Now within three days shall mass be sung in 
the choir of St. Laurence, and then shall King Ralph 
swear on the gospels such oaths as ye wot of, to guard 
his people, and help the needy, and oppress no man, 
even as I have sworn it. And I say to you, that if I 
have kept the oath to my power, yet shall he keep it 
better, as he is mightier than I. 

" Furthermore, when he hath sworn, then shall the 
vassals swear to him according to ancient custom, to 

O * 

be true to him and hardy in all due service. But so 

275 



please you I will not abide till then, but will kneel to 
him and to his Lady and Queen here and now." 

Even so he did, and took Ralph's hand in his and 
swore service to him such as was due ; and he knelt 
to Ursula also, and bade her all thanks for what she 
had done in the helping of his son ; and they raised him 
up and made much of him and of Ralph's mother ; 
and great was the joy of all folk in the hall. 

So the feast went on a while till the night grew 
old, and folk must fare bedward. Then King Peter 
and his wife brought Ralph and Ursula to the chamber 
of the solar, the kingly chamber, which was well and 
goodly dight with hangings and a fair and glorious 
bed, and was newly decked with such fair flowers as 
the summer might furnish ; and at the threshold King 
Peter stayed them and said : " Kinsman, and thou, 
dear friend, this is become your due chamber and 
resting-place while ye live in the world, and this night 
of all others it shall be a chamber of love ; for ye are, 
as it were, new wedded, since now first ye are come 
amongst the kindred as lover and beloved ; and thou, 
Ursula, art now at last the bride of this ancient house ; 
now- tell me, doth it not look friendly and kindly on 
thee?" 

" O yea, yea," she said. " Come thou, my man and 
my darling, and let us be alone in the master-chamber 
of this ancient House." 

Then Ralph drew her unto him ; and the old man 
blessed them and prayed for goodly offspring for them, 
that the House of Upmeads might long endure. 

And thus were they two left alone amidst the love 
and hope of the kindred, as erst they lay alone in the 
desert. 



276 



CHAPTER XXXII. YET A FEW WORDS 
CONCERNING RALPH OF UPMEADS. 

CERTAIN it is that Ralph failed not of his pro- 
mise to the good Prior of St. Austin's at Wul- 
stead, but went to see him speedily, and told 
him all the tale of his wanderings as closely as he 
might, and hid naught from him ; which, as ye may 
wot, was more than one day's work or two or three. 
And ever when Ralph thus spoke was a brother of the 
House sitting with the Prior, which brother was a 
learned and wise man and very speedy and deft with 
his pen. Wherefore it has been deemed not unlike 
that from this monk's writing has come the more part 
of the tale above told. And if it be so, it is well. 

Furthermore, it is told of Ralph of Upmeads that 
he ruled over his lands in right and might, and suffered 
no oppression within them, and delivered other lands 
and good towns when they fell under tyrants and 
oppressors; and for as kind a man as he was in hall 
and at hearth, in the field he was a warrior so wise and 
dreadful, that oft forsooth the very sound of his name 
and rumour of his coming stayed the march of hosts 
and the ravage of fair lands; and no lord was ever 
more beloved. Till his deathday he held the Castle 
of the Scaur, and cleansed the Wood Perilous of all 
strong-thieves and reivers, so that no high-street of a 
good town was safer than its glades and its byways. 
The new folk of the Burg of the Four Friths made 
him their lord and captain, and the Champions of the 
Dry Tree obeyed him in all honour so long as any of 
them lasted. He rode to Higham and offered himself 
as captain to the abbot thereof, and drave out the 
tyrants and oppressors thence, and gave back peace to 
the Frank of Higham. Ever was he true captain and 
brother to the Shepherd-folk, and in many battles 
they followed him ; and were there any scarcity or ill 

277 



hap amongst them, he helped them to the uttermost of 
his power. The Wood Debateable also he cleared of 
foul robbers and reivers, and rooted out the last of the 
Burg-devils, and delivered three good towns beyond 
the wood from the cruelty of the oppressor. 

Once in every year he and Ursula his wife visited 
the Land of Abundance, and he went into the castle 
there as into a holy place, and worshipped the 
memory of the Lady whom he had loved so dearly. 
With all the friends of his quest he was kind and 
well- beloved. 

In about two years from the day when he rode 
home, came to him the Lord Bull of Utterbol with a 
chosen band, of whom were both Otter and Redhead. 
That very day they came he was about putting his 
foot in the stirrup to ride against the foemen ; so Bull 
and his men would not go into the High House to 
eat, but drank a cup where they stood, and turned 
and rode with him straightway, and did him right 
manly service in battle ; and went back with him 
afterwards to Upmeads, and abode with him there in 
feasting and joyance for two months' wearing. And 
thrice in the years that followed, when his lands at 
home seemed safest and most at peace, Ralph took 
a chosen band, and Ursula with them, and Clement 
withal, and journeyed through the wastes and the 
mountains to Utterbol, and passed joyous days with 
his old thrall of war, Bull Nosy, now become a very 
mighty man and the warder of the peace of the Utter- 
most lands. 

Clement and Katherine came oft to the High 
House, and Katherine exceeding often; and she 
loved and cherished Ursula and lived long in health 
of body and peace of mind. 

All the days that Ralph of Upmeads lived, he was 
the goodliest of men, and no man to look on him had 
known it when he grew old ; and when he changed 

278 



his life, an exceeding ancient man, he was to all men's 
eyes in the very blossom of his age. 

As to Ursula his wife, she was ever as valiant and 
true as when they met in the dark night amidst of the 
Eastland wood. Eight goodly children she bore him, 
and saw four generations of her kindred wax up ; but 
even as it was with Ralph, never was she less goodly 
of body, nay rather, but fairer than when first she came 
to Upmeads ; and the day whereon any man saw her 
was a day of joyful feast to him, a day to be re- 
membered for ever. On one day they two died and 
were laid together in one tomb in the choir of St. 
Laurence of Upmeads. AND HERE ENDS THE 
TALE OF THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S 
END. 




CHISWICK PRESS : CHARLES WH1TTINGHAM AND CO. 
TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON. 







Morris, William 

5079 The well at the world's end 

W4- 
1903 
v.2 



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